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Stock market today: Asian markets churn upward after the Dow ticks to another record high

AP Business Writer

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian shares powered higher on Friday after the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed to another record on excitement that the Federal Reserve might cut interest rates several times next year.

U.S. futures and oil prices also advanced.

Hong Kong led Asia’s gains with property developers jumping after some Chinese cities eased buying restrictions.

The Hang Seng surged 2.2% to 16,764.62, but the Shanghai Composite index fell back, losing 0.5% to 2,942.56.

Troubled developer Country Garden’s shares jumped 5.1%, while China Evergrande gained 2.2% and Sino Ocean Holding surged 6.8%.

China’s National Bureau of Statistics reported that factory output rose 6.6% in November and retail sales were up more than 10%, glimmers of improvement for the economy after the post-COVID recovery faded much more quickly than expected.

However, investments in property weakened further, indicating that the crisis over excessive debt in that industry is far from resolved.

“Our cautious conclusion from all of this is that China’s recovery is ongoing. But it still looks narrowly based and vulnerable to any further worsening in the real estate sector,” ING Economics said in a research note.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index gained 0.9% to 32,970.55 and the Kospi in Seoul added 0.8% to 2,563.56. In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 advanced 0.9% to 7,442.70.

Bangkok’s SET climbed 1% and the Sensex in India was up 0.7%.

On Thursday, the S&P 500 gained 0.3% to pull within 1.6% of its all-time high set early last year. It closed at 4,719.55. The Dow gained 0.4% to 37,248.35, and the Nasdaq climbed 0.2% to 14,761.56.

Moderna jumped 9.2% after reporting encouraging data from a study of its treatment for high-risk melanoma that’s used with Merck’s Keytruda. That helped offset a 6.3% slump for Adobe, which gave a forecast for 2024 revenue that fell short of analysts’ expectations.

Stocks have been broadly shooting higher since October on hopes that inflation has cooled enough for the Federal Reserve to not only stop its market-rattling hikes to interest rates but to even begin considering cutting them. Those hopes strengthened Wednesday after the Fed held its main interest rate steady and said the federal funds rate is likely at or near its peak.

Lower interest rates can goose prices for investments and relax the pressure on the economy and financial system. But a reversal by the Fed is not guaranteed: One threat is that the economy stays too hot, which would keep upward pressure on inflation and could force it to keep rates high for longer than expected.

Other central banks also met this week, and hopes are rising that the pivot toward easier conditions for financial markets and the economy may become global. Both the European Central Bank and Bank of England decided to keep their main interest rates unchanged on Thursday, though each gave signals that cuts are not imminent.

A couple of reports Thursday indicated the U.S. economy may be stronger than economists had forecast. One showed American shoppers spent more at retailers in November than October, when economists were forecasting a decline. Another report said fewer U.S. workers applied for jobless benefits last week, a signal of a resilient job market.

Owners of office parks, hotels and other real estate, which benefit from lower interest rates, were some of Thursday’s bigger winners. Real-estate stocks rose 2.6% for one of the best gains among the 11 sectors that make up the S&P 500 index, including a 7.2% jump for Boston Properties.

Banks were also strong. High interest rates have hurt the industry’s players a rung or two in size below the behemoth banks and helped cause three high-profile collapses earlier this year. Zions Bancorp, Fifth Third Bancorp, Comerica and Regions Financial all jumped more than 8%.

In other trading early Friday, U.S. benchmark crude oil gained 26 cents to $71.874 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It jumped $2 a barrel to $71.58 on Thursday.

Brent crude, the international standard, picked up 27 cents to $76.88 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar fell to 142.04 Japanese yen from 141.84 yen. The euro felt to $1.0986 from $1.0997.

Article Topic Follows: AP National

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