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Asian stocks muted as rate fears dull Nvidia hype; Nikkei hits record high

February 22, 2024 5:11 AM

Investing.com-- Asian stocks were a mixed bag on Thursday as gains in the technology sector, following positive signals from AI darling Nvidia, were offset by persistent fears of high U.S. interest rates, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 benchmark hit a record high.


Regional stocks took a weak lead-in from Wall Street, after the minutes of the Federal Reserve’s late-January meeting showed the bank was in no hurry to begin cutting interest rates. A slew of Fed officials also echoed this sentiment in separate addresses.


But NVIDIA Corporation (NASDAQ: NVDA) surged as much as 10% in aftermarket trade, after its quarterly earnings beat estimates and the chipmaker forecast stronger-than-expected revenue in the coming quarter.


Asian chip stocks surge as Nvidia boosts AI hype


Gains in Nvidia spilled over into Asian chipmaking stocks, as the strong results and guidance highlighted improved demand from artificial intelligence development.


Japan’s Advantest Corp. (TYO:6857) and Taiwan’s TSMC (TW:2330) (NYSE: TSM)- both of which are Nvidia suppliers- rose 4.7% and 1.2%, respectively.


South Korea’s SK Hynix Inc (KS:000660)- which makes high-speed memory chips integral to AI development- surged 3.6%, while Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry (TW:2317), which builds some processors for Nvidia, rose 1.6%.


Other tech stocks also gained. Japanese tech investment giant SoftBank Group Corp. (TYO:9984) rose 4.6%, tracking an aftermarket bounce in its British chip designing unit Arm Holdings (NASDAQ: ARM), which is heavily exposed to the AI boom.


Japan’s Nikkei 225 hits record highs on tech strength


Gains in heavyweight technology stocks saw the Nikkei 225 jump 1.8% to a record intraday high of 39,001.50 points- crossing a 1989 peak, before the unwinding of a massive speculative bubble in Japan through the 1990's.


The Nikkei had curbed some intraday gains after data showed Japanese manufacturing and services sector activity declined in February, amid persistent pressure from high inflation and weak demand.


But a weaker economy is also widely expected to delay the Bank of Japan’s plans to begin raising interest rates. An ultra-dovish BOJ was among the biggest drivers of a Japanese stock rally in recent months.


Broader Asian stocks were largely weaker, as a Chinese recovery rally slowed and as the prospect of higher-for-longer U.S. rates dented risk appetite.


Chinese stocks were muted on Thursday after seven straight sessions of gains, as a bulk of the rebound appeared to be driven by strict government intervention. Beijing banned block sales by institutional traders near the market open and close, media reports showed on Wednesday.


Both the blue-chip Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 and the Shanghai Composite indexes rose marginally. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 0.3%.


South Korea’s KOSPI rose 0.3%, as gains in tech were offset by losses in other stocks, after the Bank of Korea kept interest rates steady and signaled no immediate plans to loosen monetary policy.


Australia’s ASX 200 fell 0.1% after coming close to record highs, with heavyweight miner Rio Tinto Ltd (ASX:RIO) among the top drags on the index after it clocked a 12% decline in its 2023 profit.


Futures for India’s Nifty 50 index pointed to a positive open, with heavyweight local tech stocks likely to track gains in their regional peers.

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