Asian shares rise on optimism on economic data and earnings

TOKYO—Asian shares mostly rose Thursday as investors welcomed encouraging economic data and quarterly earnings reports from big companies.

Benchmarks rose across the region, including Japan, China, Australia and South Korea. The gains followed a strong rally on Wall Street.

Jitters eased over the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan after she left for South Korea and then later Japan, firm US allies for decades. But analysts said some geopolitical risks remain, with China conducting military exercises near the self-ruled island that it claims as its own territory.

“Despite the easing in immediate concerns, investors will be looking out for any potential escalation in US-China tensions, with any economic sanctions from China likely to negatively affect risk sentiment and positioning in Asian markets,” said Anderson Alves of ActivTrades.

Alves said investors are also watching US nonfarm payrolls, due Friday, for indications on hiring, and how that might affect interest rate policy. But overall Pelosi’s trip so far has had little impact on markets.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 added 0.5 percent in morning trading to 27,892.68. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.2 percent to 6,990.30. South Korea’s Kospi added 0.4 percent to 2,471.26. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 1.7 percent to 20,105.06, while the Shanghai Composite edged up 0.4 percent to 3,175.17.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 rose to 4,155.17, an almost 2-month high. The Nasdaq gained 2.6 percent to 12,668.16. Both indexes more than recouped losses earlier in the week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.3 percent to 32,812.50. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies ended 1.4 percent higher, at 1,908.93.

Technology companies, retailers and communications companies were some of the biggest winners. Only energy sector stocks fell, dragged down by lower oil prices.

Investors cheered a report on the services sector, which makes up the bulk of the US economy. The sector grew faster than expected in July, according to the Institute for Supply Management. A separate report showed US orders for big-ticket, durable goods increased more than expected in June.

Some weak recent data on the economy heightened speculation that the peak for inflation and for the Federal Reserve’s aggressive rate hikes may be approaching or has already passed. The weak data, though, also shows the risk of a recession as the Fed puts the brake on the economy.

That’s why Wednesday’s more positive economic reports helped put traders in a buying mood.

“That just provides people with more evidence that this economy is hanging in there,” said Jeff Buchbinder, equity strategist for LPL Financial. “At this point, we have a combination of evidence that inflation is coming down.”

The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 2.71 percent from 2.73 percent late Tuesday.

Earnings remain in focus this week as investors parse the latest results and statements from companies to better understand how inflation is affecting businesses and consumers.

Drugstore chain CVS rose 6.3 percent after reporting solid financial results and raising its profit forecast for the year. Starbucks rose 4.3 percent after also reporting solid financial results. Nearly three-quarters of companies within the benchmark S&P 500 have reported earnings for the latest quarter and the results have mostly beaten analysts’ forecasts.

Several companies, though, have slipped amid disappointing results. Taco Bell owner Yum Brands fell 1.9 percent following a weak earnings report and online dating service company Match Group tumbled 17.6 percent after giving investors a weak financial forecast.

PayPal jumped 9.2 percent on a report that activist investor Elliott Management has taken a large stake in the payment company.

Robinhood Markets, whose stock trading app helped bring a new generation of investors to the market, rose 11.7 percent following an announcement that it’s cutting nearly a quarter of its workforce. Crashing cryptocurrency prices and a turbulent stock market have kept more customers off its app.

Oil prices rose following Opec’s decision to boost production in September at a much slower pace than previous months. Benchmark US crude added 34 cents to $91.00 a barrel. On Wednesday, US crude oil fell 4 percent to settle at $90.66 per barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, added 21 cents to $96.99 a barrel.

Markets are also watching for potential economic fallout from China after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. China claims self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory, and banned imports of Taiwanese citrus fruits and frozen fish in retaliation for Pelosi’s visit. But it has avoided disrupting the flow of computer chips and other industrial goods, a step that could jolt the global economy.

AP Business Writers Damian J. Troise and Alex Veiga contributed.

Upcoming data on the jobs market could help investors determine how the Federal Reserve will move ahead with its interest rate policy, which has been aggressive in an effort to try and tame inflation. US jobless claims numbers for last week will be released Thursday, and the government issues its July jobs report on Friday.

In currency trading, the US dollar edged down to 133.73 Japanese yen from 133.83 yen. The euro cost $1.0167, little changed from $1.0172.

AP Business Writers Damian J. Troise and Alex Veiga contributed.

Image credits: AP/Ahn Young-joon