By Willa Plank

Japanese companies look to gain from investments in U.S.; commodities drive Australian market

Asian stock markets broadly rose Wednesday on encouraging economic data and an impending press conference by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, which traders hoped may contain details of his stimulus program.

"Can we get a little plan for fiscal stimulus?" said Christoffer Moltke-Leth, director of global sales trading at Saxo Capital Markets. "What will be coming for tax cuts? The composition, the time and potentially the size of his planned fiscal spending. That will have an impact on what the [U.S. Federal Reserve] is going to do."

The pressconference is scheduled for later in the global trading day.

Japan's Nikkei was up 0.4%, Korea's Kospi rose 1.5% and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.2%.

Data arrived Tuesday that small-business optimism in the U.S. hit its best level since 2004. The National Federation of Independent Business' small-business optimism index reached 105.8 in December, surpassing expectations.

Elsewhere, Australian job vacancies rose 2.2% sequentially to 182,000 in the quarter through November, according to government data released Wednesday. The growth "certainly bodes well for hiring in coming months," says CommSec senior economist Savanth Sebastian. "Overall, it is pretty clear that the job market remains in good shape."

This has all amplified traders' optimism about global economies, particularly after the Chinese government revealed on Tuesday that producer prices rose 5.5% in December on-year, climbing from a 3.3% (on-year) increase in November.

"Inflation is coming back globally," added Moltke-Leth, saying this indicated demand was returning to world economies.

Overnight in the U.S., the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.2%, but the Nasdaq closed 0.4% higher, to a fresh record. The U.K.'s FSTE 100 ended 0.5% higher.

Japan's automobile, technology and chemical companies stand to gain should Trump indicate during his press conference that he wants more foreign companies to invest in the U.S., said Hisao Matsuura, chief strategist at Nomura Japan. This would flag a shift in posture, away from protectionist measures and toward a pro-investment stance that may be good for Japan Inc.

"Instead of raising tariffs or being a protectionist, they think Trump will ask other countries to invest more in the U.S.," said Hisao Matsuura, chief strategist at Nomura Japan. This could lead to a stronger dollar "but Trump will welcome that," Matsuura said.

"At this point of the economic cycle with the economy accelerating and the Fed on a hiking process, it is really hard for the U.S. to keep a weaker dollar," he added. A stronger dollar implies a weaker yen, which makes Japan's exporters more competitive.

In Japan, Toshiba (6502.TO) climbed 4.7% on media reports that its main lenders have agreed to maintain their financial support even though the firm is preparing a gigantic write-down of its U.S. nuclear operations.

Commodities stocks were leading the Australian market, said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets. Stocks globally were gaining on an improved global outlook, he said. BHP Billiton (BHP.AU) was up 3.1%, Fortescue Metals (FMG.AU) was higher 4.1% and Rio Tinto (RIO) jumped 4.3%.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 11, 2017 00:09 ET (05:09 GMT)

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