Asian stock markets advanced Tuesday as investors await Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's semi-annual testimony before the Congress for hints on further easing.
Japan's benchmark Nikkei gained 0.35 percent or 30.88 points to 8755.00, Chinese Shanghai Composite rose 0.62 percent or 13.23 points to 2161.19 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng surged 1.75 percent or 333.99 points to 19455.33, while the South Korean KOSPI advanced 0.23 percent and the Indian benchmark BSE Sensex gained 0.29 percent.
The recent batch of disappointing economic readings from the U.S., including a slowdown in jobs creation, ISM manufacturing and weak retail sales raised fears that the strength of economic recovery in the world's largest economy is losing steam.
Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) lowered its global growth forecast for 2013 to 3.9 percent from its prior estimation of 4.1 percent. The IMF noted that the escalation of the euro area crisis will further worsen global economic growth.
Investors are optimistic that the weak economic data, coupled with intensifying crisis in the euro zone and a lower IMF global growth forecast, will force policy makers to announce further monetary easing measures.
However, some economists expect that Bernanke will reiterate the bank's stance of taking action as needed to protect the U.S. financial system if financial stresses escalate. It is unlikely the Chairman will announce any implicit promises of further support as growth prospects have largely remained in line with the central bank’s expectations.
Meanwhile, expectations on further stimulus measures from China rose after Premier Wen Jiabao warned Sunday that the recovery in the world’s second largest economy was not stable. Analysts’ at Credit Agricole expects a RRR cut in the coming weeks in order to increase the lending capacity at Chinese banks to protect growth in the second half of the year.
There is still this sniff of monetary easing in the air in China and the U.S. that is keeping the markets going, Justin Harper, market strategist at IG Markets in Singapore, told the Wall Street Journal.
Health care companies’ shares led gains in Tokyo. Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. gained 1.67 percent and Astellas Pharma Inc. surged 3.63 percent.
Among the other stocks, Olympus Corp climbed 5.29 percent and Daiwa Securities Group Inc rose 1.85 percent while Tokyo Electric Power Co slumped 11.51 percent.
Financials and resource related shares rallied in Hong Kong. CNOOC Ltd surged 3.18 percent and Aluminum Corp of China advanced 1.29 percent, while HSBC Holdings Plc rose 1.27 percent and China Railway Construction Corp. rallied at 4.02 percent.