Asian markets on course for broad gains after volatile week

An electronic shares price display is seen at the Stock Exchange in Bangkok on September 19, 2008. (AFP/NICOLAS ASFOURI)

Asian markets rallied on Friday, bringing a volatile week to a positive end as tech firms extended their rebound while investors tracked advances on Wall Street following reports Donald Trump is planning to unveil a big-spending public works plan.

Global equities have struggled this week, hit by profit-taking, fears over the progress of a probe into Russia's US election meddling, stumbling Brexit talks and President Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The issues had overshadowed news that Senators had passed a market-friendly US tax overhaul bill and were preparing to hammer out a compromise with the House of Representatives.

Traders were given a positive lead from New York, where all three main indexes ended higher, with reports saying the president hopes to present an infrastructure plan to Congress early next month.

Trump's promises of tax cuts, $1 trillion in infrastructure spending and deregulation helped spur a global equities and dollar rally after his election as investors bet they would fire up the already healthy economy.

"While the US economy is booming, President Trump's long-standing pledge may be upon us as infrastructure spending at both a federal and state (level) could be a real game-changer for the dollar," said Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trading at OANDA.

He forecast an upsurge in business investment as a result could "propel the US economy to four percent growth".

In Asian trade, Tokyo ended 1.4 percent higher, extending Thursday's 1.5 percent rise, helped by a weaker yen as well as a forecast-busting reading on Japanese economic growth.

The economy grew twice as fast as previously estimated, officials said, thanks to rising exports and increased spending by Japanese firms on equipment and facilities.

Brexit hopes

Hong Kong rose 1.2 percent and Shanghai added 0.6 percent following data showing exports and imports grew more than expected in November. Sydney put on 0.3 percent, Singapore climbed one percent and Seoul was up 0.1 percent.

The gains were helped by a surge across tech firms, which has suffered heavily from profit-taking this past week as dealers shift into sectors likely to benefit more from the US tax cuts.

Among the biggest winners was AAC Technologies in Hong Kong, which soared 5.5 percent, while Tencent was almost four percent higher. Samsung and Sony were also much higher.

On currency markets, the dollar pushed up against most other units, with eyes now on the release of US jobs data later in the day, which could provide further clues about the Federal Reserve's plans for interest rates in 2018.

The central bank holds a policy meeting next week and while it is expected to lift borrowing costs, its statement will be pored over for an idea about its future timetable.

The pound was one of the only currencies to strengthen against the dollar as traders welcomed comments from the EU Commission that "sufficient progress" had been made on Brexit after talks between British Prime Minister Theresa May and Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker.

The unit tumbled earlier this week after May's Northern Irish coalition partners rejected a deal regarding the border with the Republic of Ireland.

Bitcoin broke fresh records again as the cryptocurrency pierced $17,000 for the first time, just a week after ploughing through $10,000. However, it was hit by profit-taking later in the day and was sitting at around $15,700 in the Asian afternoon.

The currency has soared more than 20-fold this year as investors pile into the market, hoping not to miss out on the unit's phenomenal rally. – AFP

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