Stock market today: Asian shares mostly rise, led by gains in Chinese markets following policy moves

TOKYO — Asian shares were mostly higher on Thursday, with Chinese stocks extending gains after Beijing announced a raft of policies to support sagging markets.

Hong Kong rose 1.8% and Shanghai surged 3%. Benchmarks inched higher in Tokyo and Seoul. U.S. futures and oil prices advanced.

Late Wednesday, the Chinese central bank announced a set of rules to govern lending to property developers. Earlier, it said it would cut bank reserve requirements to put about 1 trillion yuan ($141 billion) into the economy.

The Chinese economy has slowed, with growth forecast below 5% this year, its lowest level since 1990 excluding the years of the COVID-19 pandemic. A debt crisis in the real estate industry has compounded other longer-term problems.

Shares in Chinese property developers jumped Thursday, with China Evergrande Holdings up 5.4% and Country Garden gaining 5.9%.

The Hang Seng in Hong Kong jumped 2.0% to 16,219.04, while the Shanghai Composite index was up 2.9%, at 2,902.85.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 was little changed in afternoon trading, up about 10 points at 36,236.47.

Speculation has been growing about the Bank of Japan ending its negative rate policy later this year, and investors are bracing for what that might mean for the nation’s inflation, as well as its currency.

South Korea’s Kospi edged up less than 1 point to 2,470.34 after the nation’s central bank reported the economy grew at a better-than-expected quarterly rate of 0.6% in the last quarter of 2023.

Sydney’s S&P/ASX 200 advanced 0.5% to 7,555.40.

On Wednesday, the S&P 500 added 0.1% to 4,868.55, setting a record for a fourth straight day. Gains for tech stocks pushed the Nasdaq composite up 0.4% to 15,481.92. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.3%, to 37,806.39.

Stocks have broadly rocketed to records recently on hopes that cooling inflation will convince the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates several times this year. Treasury yields have already come down considerably on such expectations, which can relax the pressure on the economy and financial system.

The latest signal of economic strength arrived Wednesday morning, when a preliminary report suggested growth in output for businesses accelerated to a seven-month high. Perhaps more importantly for Fed officials, the flash report from S&P Global also said that prices charged by businesses rose at the slowest rate since May 2020.

Later Thursday, the government is expected to report that the U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of around 2% in October-December, slowing from a vigorous 4.9% annual growth rate in the previous quarter.

It still showcases the surprising durability of the world’s largest economy, marking a sixth straight quarter of expansion at an annual pace of 2% or more. Helping fuel that growth has been steady spending by consumers, whose purchases drive more than two-thirds of the economy.

Treasury yields in the bond market erased earlier losses following the report. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 4.17% from 4.14% late Tuesday. The two-year Treasury yield, which moves more on expectations for the Fed, held at 4.38% after dropping as low as 4.26% shortly before the report.

Economic reports coming later in the week could further sway expectations for rate cuts this year. On Thursday, the government will give its first estimate for how quickly the economy grew during the end of 2023. A day later, it will give the latest monthly update on the measure of inflation that the Federal Reserve prefers to use.

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude added 32 cents to $75.41 a barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 28 cents to $80.32 a barrel.

In currency trading, the U.S. dollar edged up to 147.65 Japanese yen from 147.51 yen. The euro cost $1.0891, up from $1.0884.

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