Opening Call: The Australian share market is to open higher.
U.S. stocks finished higher, led by Nasdaq. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 1.52%, from 1.48% Tuesday. The WSJ Dollar Index fell 0.36% to 89.81. U.S. oil futures settled at a two-week high as Omicron fears eased. And gold futures inched higher but finished below the highest intraday level.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index closed 1.25% higher as broad-based gains pushed the benchmark to its biggest rise since early October. All 11 sectors rose, with materials, telecoms and tech all adding more than 2%. Buy-now-pay-later provider Zip was the best-performing ASX 200 component for a second straight session, adding 11% after UBS upgraded the stock to neutral.
U.S. stocks finished the day with strength as investors assessed the effects of the Omicron variant on the economy. The S&P 500 gained 0.3%, just shy of a closing record a day after the benchmark index posted its biggest one-day jump since March. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.1%, reversing earlier losses. The technology-focused Nasdaq Composite was ahead by 0.6%.
Stocks have snapped back after swooning when the Omicron variant first emerged in late November. Investors have pointed to evidence that Omicron might cause less severe illness than previous variants, though scientists are still assessing its virulence and ability to evade vaccines.
Gold futures inched higher but finished below the intraday high which was the highest level since last week, as investors watched developments with the Omicron variant and awaited U.S. inflation data due out at the end of the week. The most-active February gold contract tacked on less than 0.1% to settle at $1,785.50 an ounce.
The contract traded as high as $1,794.30, the highest intraday level for a most-active contract since Dec. 1, according to FactSet data. There’s “no real safe haven demand” at the moment, given that U.S. President Biden and Russian President Putin discussed the Ukraine crisis, but “nothing changed,” said Jeff Wright, chief investment officer at Wolfpack Capital.
U.S. oil prices marked their highest settlement in two weeks, finding ongoing support from news suggesting that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus may not disrupt economies as much as feared. West Texas Intermediate crude for January delivery rose by 0.4% to settle at $72.36 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange – the highest front-month finish since Nov. 24, according to Dow Jones Market Data.
Prices had traded as low as $70.91 Wednesday. February Brent crude, the global benchmark, added 0.5% to settle at $75.82 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe. The contract marked a fifth straight session gain, at the highest finish since Nov. 25.
Major currencies were mostly firmer against the US dollar in European and US trade. The Euro rose from lows near US$1.1267 to highs near US$1.1354 and was near US$1.1350 at the US close. The Aussie dollar rose from lows near US71.17 cents to highs near US71.81 cents and was near US71.75 cents at the US close. But the Japanese yen eased from 113.31 yen per US dollar to JPY113.92 and was near JPY113.70 at the US close.
European share markets closed lower on Wednesday. The pan-European STOXX 600 index fell by 0.6% with retail stocks down by 1.9%. Shares of German meal kit delivery company Hellofresh slid 10.9% after missing earnings expectations. The German Dax index shed 0.8% with the UK FTSE index down less than 0.1%. Londonlisted shares in Rio Tinto (-1.5%) and BHP (-1.1%) both dipped.
Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average closed higher, led by gains in electronics stocks as some Omicron variant jitters abated. Renesas Electronics gained 6.1% and Omron advanced 3.6%. Chugai Pharmaceutical jumped 6.8% following news that the European Union approved its drug Actemra for Covid-19 treatment.
Chinese stocks finished the session higher as sentiment picked up after Beijing earlier this week cut banks’ reserve requirement ratio and signalled support for the property sector. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index rose 1.2% while the Shenzhen Composite Index gained 1.8%.
The ChiNext Price Index, which measures the performance of startups and emerging industries, added 1.7%. Electronic makers led the upturns, as the broader tech sector recovered from consecutive losses in recent sessions triggered by geopolitical concerns. Consumer goods stocks, including beverage makers and liquor companies, lent further support.