By Ian Chua
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Asian shares rose on Friday after an interest rate cut by the European Central Bank added to hopes that more stimulus from yet another major central bank will help shore up the global economic recovery.
ECB President Mario Draghi also said the ECB stood ready to ease further if needed, dealing a blow to the euro currency as investors looked elsewhere for better returns.
The euro traded at $1.3064, having skidded nearly 1 percent on Thursday. It also lost ground against the yen, slipping to 128.00 and pulling further away from a 3-year peak around 131.10 set last month.
The ECB’s decision came a day after the Federal Reserve recommitted to its aggressive stimulus programme and a month after the Bank of Japan stunned markets by promising to inject about $1.4 trillion into the economy to spur growth.
India’s central bank is also widely expected to cut interest rates later in the day to help lift the economy from its lowest growth in a decade.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.3 percent, with South Korean stocks gaining 0.2 percent in early trade. Japanese financial markets are shut for holidays and will reopen on Tuesday.
Australia’s main share index climbed 0.7 percent after Westpac became the latest major bank to handily beat expectations with a 10 percent jump in profit.
Westpac shares jumped about 2 percent, lifting its market value to A$107 billion, which is more than Barclays and Deutsche Bank combined.
Also underpinning market optimism, the number of Americans filing new jobless benefits claims fell sharply last week to its lowest level since the early days of the 2007-09 recession. Markets are now keenly waiting for the U.S. non-farm payrolls report due 1.30 p.m. British time.
Analysts at Barclays Capital said conditions for equity markets are favourable, particularly given the mix of muted inflation and soft growth, which means central banks can maintain, or even add to, monetary stimulus.
“We remain constructive on developed market equities but are more cautious on safe havens, given the extent of their recent rallies,” analysts Guillermo Felices and Sreekala Kochugovindan wrote in a client note.
Commodities also saw a broad-based rebound with U.S. crude at $93.88 per barrel, following a near 3-percent rally on Thursday.
Copper also recouped a chunk of what it lost in the previous session, although the top industrial metal remained below the $7,000-a-tonne price critical to market bulls. It was last at $6,898.00.
Further gains in commodities hinge on a report on China’s services sector due later in the day, particularly as recent data have disappointed and raised fresh doubts about the strength of the world’s second biggest economy.