HONG KONG (AFP): Most Asian markets rose Thursday (Jan 26) as the majority returned from the Lunar New Year break on an optimistic note, with inflation slowing and central banks hinting at a lighter approach to tackling prices.
Hong Kong led the way again, helped by hopes that China's reopening will fuel a strong recovery this year, while Bloomberg News said travel and box office numbers for the holidays were encouraging.
But uneven earnings from tech giants largely kept sentiment in check and saw Wall Street end on a soft note, with the Nasdaq in the red.
Traders are now awaiting the release of US growth data on Thursday and the Federal Reserve's preferred gauge of inflation Friday.
Still, Asia continued to outperform after a strong start to the year.
Next week, the Federal Reserve will make its latest policy decision since slowing its pace of rate hikes in December after four straight 75 basis-point increases.
Speculation has been building in recent weeks that the bank could take its foot off the pedal as data points to inflation coming down quicker than expected and other indicators suggest last year's tightening was taking hold in the economy.
And while there remains some concern that the world's top economy could tip into recession, there is growing hope it can achieve a so-called soft landing.
Hong Kong jumped more than one per cent Thursday -- having already piled on more than 10 per cent in 2023 -- while Singapore, Wellington and Manila were also up, though Tokyo dipped.
Seoul edged up as data showed South Korea's economy shrank in October-December -- for the first time since the second quarter of 2020 -- giving the central bank room to tone down its pace of rate hikes.
And SPI Asset Management's Stephen Innes was upbeat.
"Once we chop through the cudgel of earnings reports, one can reasonably expect the buyback tailwind to resume in force come February," he said in a commentary.
"The opportunity set in non-US markets continues to look more attractive. And while China remains the faster horse in the race, still after a run of resilient activity data, lower gas prices, easier financial conditions and earlier China reopening, investors should take note of the solid non-recessionary vibes emanating from Europe."
Oil prices edged up and have consolidated around their November highs on China demand expectations, with officials saying the number of daily Covid deaths had fallen nearly 80 percent since the start of the month.
The figures will come as some relief to investors who feared that a wave of infections across the country would offset the benefits of dispatching the zero-Covid strategy that hammered the economy for three years.