Asia stocks higher ahead of ECB meeting
HONG KONG — Asian markets extended their rally this week, while the euro dipped ahead of a much-anticipated European Central Bank policy meeting that is forecast to see it introduce more monetary easing measures.
Tokyo added 0.28%, or 48.54 points, to end at 17,329.02, Sydney rose 0.49%, or 26.52 points, to 5,419.90 and Seoul was flat, dipping a marginal 0.41 points to 1,920.82.
Hong Kong rose 0.7%, or 170.05 points, to 24,522.63 and Shanghai gained 0.59%, or 19.73 points, to 3,343.34. The mainland China index has recovered almost all the losses it made on Monday in reaction to a regulatory crackdown on margin trading.
Eyes are firmly on the meeting later Thursday of the ECB, with expectations high that it will unveil a programme of asset-purchasing, or quantitative easing (QE).
Speculation has been rife for several months that more stimulus would be announced as inflation continues to weaken -- last month prices actually fell in December for the first time in five years.
According to analysts at UniCredit, the market is expecting the ECB to unveil a programme worth between 500 and 800 billion euros.
Wall Street took its rally into a third day Wednesday, the Dow ending up 0.22%, the S&P 500 adding 0.47% and the Nasdaq 0.27 higher.
With traders placing bets on a vast round of easing the euro has been hammered in the past few weeks, especially as it comes just a few months after the US Federal Reserve wound up its own QE programme and considers an interest rate hike this year.
At one point last week the single currency fell below $1.1500 for the first time since late 2003.
In afternoon trade Thursday it bought $1.1582 and 136.79 yen compared with $1.1607 and 136.85 yen in US trade.
"The euro decision is kind of well telegraphed but euro-dollar does have more to go on the downside," Thomas Averill, a managing director in Sydney at Rochford Capital, told Bloomberg News. "The eurozone economy seems pretty sluggish at the moment and needs QE."