By Kenan Machado
Asia-Pacific stocks generally extended recent gains Wednesday, though China and Hong Kong softened in afternoon action following their big advances Tuesday.
Leading the region Wednesday morning was China, where stocks outside of the biggest companies badly lagged 2017's global rally. But gains were roughly halved following the midday break, with the Shanghai Composite's gain narrowing to 0.6%.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index was down 0.1% after having it earlier touched a fresh 10-year high with a 0.7% increase. The reversal came as smartphone-lens maker Sunny Optical gave up an early 5.8% jump to trade 0.6% lower. But fellow tech firms like Tencent and AAC Technologies were higher, helping support the index.
Overall, investors appear to be seeking value in Asian stocks, according to an analysis by Instinet, with increased buying of companies with low price-to-earnings multiples. On that basis, the region's equities are generally cheaper than in Europe or the U.S.
Overnight, the Nasdaq Composite jumped 1.5%, closing above 7000 for the first time as Apple climbed 1.8%.
The Taiex in Taiwan, where many Apple suppliers are based, climbed 0.8% to hit a fresh five-week high. Index heavyweight Taiwan Semiconductor rose 1.7%, but Hon Hai and Largan Precision each fell 1%.
South Korean giant Samsung Electronics rose 1.2%, helping the benchmark Kospi gain 0.3%.
The start-of-year strength hints that investors are anticipating a repeat of 2017's gains for Asian stocks, said Andrew Clarke, head of trading at Mirabaud. He added investors are probably also thinking that Europe and Japan may take the U.S. lead and cut corporate taxes.
There is also optimism about the coming earnings season, and there is "a lot of anticipation that earnings will increase" for the tech sector, said Shane Chanel, an equities adviser at ASR Wealth. But he cautioned that any bad news could stop the market's rally.
Fresh intraday records were seen Wednesday in New Zealand, Thailand and the Philippines--the latter two strengthening more than 1%.
But Indonesia, after having set nine closing record highs in 10 sessions through Friday, extended Tuesday afternoon's decline. The JSX was down 1.4%.
Australia's stock benchmark only managed a 0.2% gain as consumer and health-care stocks fell, even though mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto hit fresh multiyear highs,
Japanese markets will open for the first time in 2018 on Thursday and S&P 500 futures were recently up 0.1%.
The U.S. dollar steadied after falling for a seventh-straight session, according to the WSJ Dollar Index. It was up 0.1% in afternoon Asian trading.
Bitcoin has maintained its overnight rebound to $15,000, according to price data from CoinDesk, fueled by Silicon Valley venture-capital firm Founders Fund making a big bullish bet on the cryptocurrency. It briefly fell below $13,000 in Asian trading Tuesday.
Write to Kenan Machado at [email protected]