Asian stocks rise, Nikkei at 33-year high as post-BOJ rally rages on

Most Asian stocks rose on Wednesday, as expectations of lower U.S. interest rates and dovish signals from the Bank of Japan kept investors optimistic over a more accommodative environment in the coming year.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 remained an outperformer among its peers, surging 1.8% to a 33-year high after the Bank of Japan maintained its ultra-dovish policy and offered scant cues on a potential pivot in 2024.

A dovish BOJ has been a key point of support for the Nikkei this year, given that the bank largely contrasted its global peers by keeping interest rates at ultra-low levels. With BOJ now showing little intent to tighten monetary conditions in 2024, Japanese stocks are set to enjoy accommodative conditions for longer.

Optimism over the BOJ also helped Japanese stocks firm past weaker-than-expected imports and exports data for November, which heralded increasing pressure on the economy from weak conditions in its biggest trading partners, namely China.

Chinese stocks lag as PBOC keeps rates unchanged

Chinese stocks lagged their peers for the day, after the People’s Bank of China kept its benchmark loan prime rate unchanged in its final rate decision for the year. While the move was largely telegraphed, it highlighted just how little headroom China’s government has in doling out more monetary stimulus.

China’s Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 and Shanghai Composite indexes fell 0.4% and 0.3%, respectively, and were trading close to their lowest levels for the year. Concerns over a slowing economic recovery in China battered local stocks this year, and had also dented sentiment towards broader Asian markets.

But broader Asian stocks were encouraged by a stronger overnight close on Wall Street, as U.S. stock benchmarks came within sight of new highs. U.S. stocks have been on a tear after the Federal Reserve flagged an end to more interest rate hikes and said rate cuts were likely in 2024.

The BOJ meeting this week also wrapped up all major central bank meetings for 2023, and set a dovish tone for the coming year, which is likely to benefit risk-driven assets.

This notion boosted Asian stocks, although uncertainty over the timing of the Fed’s rate cuts somewhat limited gains. Some Fed officials also attempted to push back against expectations for an immediate interest rate cut in early-2024.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index ducked its Chinese peers, rising 1.1% on strength in energy and heavyweight technology stocks.

Australia’s ASX 200 rose 0.6% to a 10-month high, amid growing hopes that the Reserve Bank of Australia was also done raising interest rates. Gains in mining and bank stocks were the biggest boost to the ASX.

South Korea’s KOSPI added 1.4% on strength in heavyweight tech stocks, while futures for India’s Nifty 50 index pointed to a mildly positive open, as the index traded within sight of record highs.

Optimism over India’s economy was a key point of support for the Nifty, and is expected to keep driving foreign capital flows into the country.

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