TOKYO (AP) — Record highs on Wall Street helped push Asian stocks higher Thursday, led by a surge on the Tokyo market, which was cheered by the strong dollar and polls showing the pro-business ruling party will win upcoming elections.
KEEPING SCORE: The Nikkei, the benchmark for the Tokyo Stock Exchange, jumped 0.7 percent to 17,847.90. South Korea's Kospi gained 0.7 percent to 1,982.83. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.8 percent to 23,608.18. Shares were also higher in Singapore, Australia, Taiwan and Indonesia.
US ECONOMY: After rebounding from a slump in mid-October, stocks have been gradually moving higher on optimism that the U.S. economy will continue to improve next year. On Friday, data on U.S. employment will be released, possibly adding to such hopes.
JAPAN VOTE: Public opinion polls point to a victory for the ruling party of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in nationwide elections set for later this month. That's another factor boosting stock prices. The "Abenomics" policy of easy money to overcome deflation and engineer a weak yen has been a plus for corporate profits.
ANALYST TAKE: Rikiya Takebe, analyst at Okasan Online Securities Co. in Tokyo, says the dollar's strength against the yen is foremost in investors' minds, with anticipation the Nikkei could reach 18,000 levels. "We are all paying attention to this key idea that the dollar might reach 120 yen," he said on his blog.
WALL STREET: In New York, shares finished at record highs. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 7.78 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,074.33. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 33.07 points, or 0.2 percent, to 17,912.62. The Nasdaq composite climbed 18.66 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,774.47.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was up 28 cents at $67.66 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
CURRENCIES: The euro was little changed at $1.231. The dollar was trading at 119.91 yen, inching up from 119.83 yen. The dollar approaching 120 yen levels is great news for Japan's manufacturers such as Toyota Motor Corp., and is expected to buoy the Nikkei.