HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Asian stocks rose Thursday, as risk sentiment received a boost after the U.S. Federal Reserve's May meeting minutes indicated the central bank remains cautious in its approach to rate increases beyond June.
The Nikkei Asia300 Index rose 0.8%, or nine points, to 1,231.77. Chinese beer-maker Tsingtao Brewery jumped 13% to lead gains on the 316-stock gauge. Macquarie reportedly upgraded the stock's rating to `outperform' from `neutral' and raised its price target to HK$37 from HK$29.6. Heavyweights Ping An Insurance Group climbed 3.4% and China Construction Bank (CCB) added 1.9%.
U.S. equity benchmarks rose for a fifth day on Wednesday, with the S&P 500 Index closing at record highs, while the dollar and U.S. bond yields fell after the Fed released minutes for this month's policy review. Policymakers said if economic information came in about in line with their expectations, it would soon be appropriate for another step in removing some policy accommodation, according to the minutes. Participants generally reiterated their support for a continued gradual approach to raising the federal funds rate. Still, the central bank is widely expected to raise rates next month.
"(The minutes) confirm a benign approach from the Fed while emphasizing its commitment to normalization of monetary policy over the medium term," Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets, wrote in a note. "A modest post-release fall in the USD suggests the messaging from the Fed was slightly less hawkish than some feared."
A fall in U.S. Treasury yields following the Fed's minutes boosted developers in Hong Kong and Singapore, with New World Development and Sun Hung Kai Properties rising at least 0.9%, and Singapore's City Developments and CapitaLand adding more than 1% each.
The country gauge for China rose 1.1%, while Hong Kong's index eked out a 0.1% advance. Markets shrugged off sovereign ratings downgrades by Moody's Investors Service on Wednesday.
The Nikkei Asia300 Malaysia Index rose less than 0.1%. Malayan Banking, the nation's largest banking group by assets, advanced 0.3% after first-quarter profit rose 19%, while CIMB Group Holdings climbed 3.1% to 6.32 ringgit, adding to Wednesday's advance following a 45% jump in first-quarter profit.
AirAsia rose 6.5% after falling more than 15% in the last two sessions. Shortly after markets closed on Thursday, the budget airline reported a 30% drop in first-quarter net profit. Revenue for the period jumped 31%.
Mobile operator Axiata Group tumbled 4.4% ahead of its quarterly earnings. Late Thursday, the company reported a 35% drop in first-quarter net profit, even as revenue grew 17%.
Neighboring city-state Singapore's gauge also eked out a less than 0.1% advance.
Singapore said on Thursday its economy is likely to grow by more than 2% in 2017, and revised its first quarter economic growth to 2.7% year-on-year from an earlier estimate of 2.5%.
In the rest of Southeast Asia, indexes for Indonesia and Vietnam fell 0.6% at least, while Thailand and Philippines' gauges ended little changed.
India's index rose 1.2%, led by a rally in local lenders amid hopes the central bank and government will help them cope with mounting bad debt. State Bank of India and ICICI Bank, the nation's biggest lenders, rose 2.4% and 3.5%, respectively.
-- Nimesh Vora and V. Phani Kumar
--Nikkei Markets is a real-time financial news service for South East Asia's markets published by Nikkei NewsRise Asia Pte Ltd, a Nikkei and NewsRise joint venture company. Nikkei Markets provides wide companies coverage in the region, including the Nikkei's Asia300 companies.