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Asian shares higher, many markets closed for Lunar New Year

By ELAINE KURTENBACH
AP Business Writer

BANGKOK (AP) — Shares were higher Monday in Asia, where most markets were closed for the Lunar New Year holiday.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index added 1.3% to 26,906.04, shrugging off comments by Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki that Japan is facing an “unprecedentedly severe” financial situation after spending heavily to counter the pandemic and other troubles.

“Finances are the cornerstone of a country’s trust,” Suzuki told lawmakers in parliament. “We must secure fiscal space under normal circumstances to safeguard trust in Japan and people’s livelihood at a time of emergency.”

Japan’s national debt, already more than twice its gross domestic product, has grown further as the government failed for a decade to attain its targets for balancing the budget.

Elsewhere in Asia, the S&P/ASX 200 in Sydney edged 0.1% higher, to 7,457.30. In India, the Sensex climbed 0.4% to 60,860.37. Bangkok’s SET index lost 0.3%. Markets in Shanghai are shut for the whole week.

On Friday, a rally for tech stocks that countered worries about the weakening U.S. economy helped push Wall Street benchmarks higher.

But , adjusting to a variety of factors, “Investors have become somewhat wary about the ongoing weakness in the economic data, and it is clear that they are no longer treating the bad news like good news,” Naeem Aslam of Avatrade.com said in a commentary.

“So going into this week which is full of firecrackers in terms of economic data and earnings, the focus will be if we are going to see the U.S. equity markets continue to march higher,” Aslam said.

In other trading Monday, U.S. benchmark crude oil edged 1 cent higher to $81.61 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained $1.03 to $81.64 per barrel on Friday.

Brent crude, the price benchmark for international trading, gave up 4 cents to $87.59 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar rose 130.23 Japanese yen from 129.59 yen. The euro rose to $1.0900 from $1.0868.

On Friday, the S&P 500 rose 1.9% to 3,972.61. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 1% to 33,375.49. The Nasdaq added 2.7% to close at 11,140.43.

Small company stocks also notched solid gains. The Russell 2000 index advanced 1.7% to finish at 1,867.34.

Despite the gains, the benchmark index still ended with its first weekly loss in the last three.

Technology and communication services stocks powered much of the gains as investors cheered another big quarterly surge in Netflix’s subscribers.

Gains for tech-oriented stocks accounted for a big share of the S&P 500’s rally Friday. Google’s parent company, Alphabet said it was cutting costs by laying off 12,000 workers. Its shares jumped 5.3%.

Netflix reported a surge in its number of subscribers and saw its shares leap 8.5%.

The major indexes started the week in the red largely because of worries that the economy may not be able to avoid a scarring recession. Several reports on the economy have come in weaker than expected, as the full weight of the Federal Reserve’s hikes to interest rates last year start to make their way through the system.

On Friday, Fed Gov. Christopher Waller said he favors just a quarter-point hike on Feb. 1, when the central bank gives its next interest rate policy update. Waller also said that rates are already high enough to be slowing the economy. The remarks could have helped calm rising-rate worries in the market.

Article Topic Follows: AP National News

Associated Press

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