Asian shares mostly rose on Thursday as investors tried to gauge US inflation, tensions between Russia and Ukraine and the impact of the pandemic.
Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 rose 0.4 per cent to 27,680.91. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.1 per cent to 7,275.70.
South Korea's Kospi added 0.1 per cent to 2,771.88.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng edged down 0.1 per cent to 24,803.59, while the Shanghai Composite was little changed at 3,480.49.
Wall Street will get another update Thursday on rising prices when the Labour Department releases its report on inflation for January. Economists are forecasting that consumer prices rose 7.3 per cent, a four-decade high.
“Equity futures are also looking positive for both US and Asian stock markets at present ahead of the US January CPI release tonight,” said Robert Carnell, Regional Head of Research, Asia-Pacific, at ING in a report, referring to the report on consumer prices expected later in the day.
Covid restrictions in Japan
Japan extended measures in Tokyo and some other places to curb outbreaks of the coronavirus for three weeks, until March 6, to try to bring the spread of the omicron variant under control.
The restrictions, mostly requests to restaurants and bars to close early, had been scheduled to end on Sunday.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's decision follows requests from governors in areas where daily infection cases are overwhelming hospitals.
Although more than 80 per cent of the Japanese population have received two Covid vaccine shots, only about 7 per cent have gotten boosters.
Also on market players' minds is how Russia has massed over 100,000 troops near Ukraine's border, prompting protests from the US, Europe and other allies.
Western nations say they will impose their toughest-ever sanctions on Russian businesses and individuals if Moscow invades Ukraine.
Britain's top diplomat flew Wednesday to Moscow, seeking to defuse tensions raised by Russia's military buildup near Ukraine and warning that an invasion would bring “massive consequences for all involved.”
Wall Street rally
Technology companies led a broad rally on Wall Street.
The S&P 500 rose 1.5 per cent to 4,587.18. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.9 per cent to 35,768.06 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite rose 2.1 per cent, to 14,490.37.
Small company stocks also notched gains. The Russell 2000 rose 1.9 per cent to 2,083.50.
More than 85 per cent of stocks in the S&P 500 gained ground, with technology and communications stocks powering much of the gains. Microsoft rose 2.2 per cent and Google's parent company, Alphabet, rose 1.6 per cent.
Bond yields were mixed.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.92 per cent on Thursday, down from 1.95 per cent, the highest it's been since before the pandemic began.
Investors are focusing on company earnings reports as they try to gauge how Corporate America is dealing with higher inflation and persistent global supply chain disruptions.
Of the roughly 60 per cent of S&P 500 companies that have reported results for the last three months of 2021, about 62 per cent delivered earnings and revenue that topped Wall Street's forecasts, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.
Taco Bell owner Yum Brands rose 2.2 per cent after reporting strong fourth-quarter (October-December 2021 quarter) revenue. Freight transportation company XPO Logistics rose 8.3 per cent after also reporting solid financial results.
The Walt Disney Co. and Uber rose in after-hours trading after each reported results that topped Wall Street's estimates.
Drugstore chain CVS fell 5.4 per cent for the biggest decline in the S&P 500 after giving investors a discouraging earnings forecast.
“Earnings and sales really have come in overall quite nicely relative to expectations at the beginning of this quarter, so that's a positive force within the market,” said Lisa Erickson, senior market strategist at US Bank Wealth Management.
Twitter and Coca-Cola report their results on Thursday.
An unexpectedly smaller rise in prices in Thursday's data release could signal inflation easing and could support markets, though a bigger increase would weigh on stocks since it would up pressure on the Federal Reserve to move more quickly to raise interest rates to fight inflation.
In energy trading, benchmark US crude fell 9 cents to $89.57 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose 30 cents to $89.66 per barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, slipped 13 cents to $91.42 a barrel.
In currency trading, the US dollar rose to ¥115.54 from ¥115.52. The euro cost $1.1428, up from $1.1427.