BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets soared Thursday after major central banks acted in concert to lower borrowing costs, hoping to prevent a global credit crisis similar to the one that followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008.
Benchmark oil rose above $100 per barrel and the dollar fell against the euro but rose against the yen.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index jumped 2.4 percent to 8,638.72. South Korea's Kospi surged 4.2 percent to 1,925.17 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng vaulted 5.9 percent to 19,041.36. Benchmarks in Australia, India, Singapore and Taiwan all rose more than 2.5 percent. Mainland Chinese shares on benchmark indexes in Shanghai and Shenzhen rose more than 3 percent.
On Wednesday, the central banks of Europe, the U.S., Britain, Canada, Japan and Switzerland reduced the rates that banks must pay to borrow dollars in order to make loans cheaper so that banks can continue to operate smoothly.
"The moves were cheered by markets as it shows central banks are willing to work together to ease Europe's sovereign debt crisis," Stan Shamu of IG Markets in Melbourne said in a report.
Separately, China's central bank also acted to release money for lending and help shore up slowing growth by lowering bank reserve levels for the first time in three years. The action late Wednesday signaled a key change in monetary policy, analysts said.
"I think the government has the faith now that inflation has peaked, and that now it's time to change the monetary policy from a tight one to a loose one," said Francis Lun, managing director of Lyncean Holdings in Hong Kong.
Chinese banks soared on the news. Hong Kong-listed Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, the world's largest bank by market value, surged 10.4 percent.
By easing reserve requirements, the central bank made available some 350 billion yuan ($55 billion) that otherwise would have been locked up in reserves. Given typical investment trends, much of that money could find its way back into the property sector.
Hong Kong-listed China Resources Land rose 11.6 percent and Poly Real Estate Group added 8.7 percent.
Steel and industrial shares also jumped. Japanese steel producer JFE Holdings shot up 9.6 percent and South Korean steel giant POSCO gained 7.5 percent.
Worries about Europe's financial system — and the reluctance of the European Central Bank to intervene — have caused borrowing rates for European nations to skyrocket. Central banks will now make it cheaper for commercial banks in their countries to borrow dollars, the dominant currency of trade.
But it does little to solve the underlying problem of mountains of government debt. Analysts said that unless there is dramatic action at an upcoming summit of European leaders on the debt crisis, markets are in for further shaky times.
"Until we see some definitely agreed on and, when necessary, legislated initiatives from Europe, optimism can be premature," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney. "Until we see that sort of thing, there will be a ceiling on the rally."
The central banks' move sent the Dow Jones industrial average soaring 490 points, its biggest gain since March 2009 and the seventh-largest of all time.
The Dow rose 4.2 percent to close at 12,045. The Standard & Poor's 500 closed up 4.3 percent at 1,247. The Nasdaq composite index closed up 4.2 percent at 2,620.
In energy trading, benchmark crude for January delivery was up 39 cents to $100.75 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 57 cents to settle to $100.36 on Wednesday.
In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3463 from $1.3435 late Wednesday in New York. The dollar rose to 77.67 yen from 77.56 yen.
by Associated Press Dec 1, 2011
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