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Asian markets up as US Fed indicates no rate hike

Japan's Nikkei surges 2% followed by rises in Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan

The Nikkei Stock Average at one point jumped over 500 points, or 1.9%, to breach the 30,000 mark on March 18. (Photo by Kosuke Imamura)

TOKYO -- Asian stocks markets climbed higher on Thursday led by Japan's Nikkei index after the U.S. Federal Reserve said it would maintain its monetary easing policy.

Nikkei Stock Average at one point jumped over nearly 2%, to breach the 30,000 mark, before closing the day 1% higher at 30,216. E-commerce group Rakuten closed up more than 3%, while Toyota Motor climbed 4% and Fast Retailing, operator of casual clothing chain Uniqlo, gained 1%.

Tokyo's broader stock index, the Topix, also rose over 1%, recovering the 2,000 mark for the first time in almost 30 years -- since May 1991.

Share prices of Japanese banks gained after Nikkei reported that the Bank of Japan will widen its interest rate target range to support bank profits. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group shares rose 5% from the previous day's close, while Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group was up 4%. Mizuho Financial Group rose 3%.

Stock benchmarks in other countries were also higher. Beaten-down Chinese technology stocks rallied, sending Hong Kong's main share index higher and supporting China CSI 300 Index, which tracks the largest stocks traded in Shanghai and Shenzhen.

Tencent Holdings climbed 3.4% in Hong Kong, Alibaba Group Holding surged 6% and is on course for its biggest rise in two months. The Hang Seng Tech Index climbed 2.6% and the benchmark Hang Seng Index was up 1.8%. China's CSI 300 Information Technology Index was up 1.7% or almost double the rise of the broader benchmark.

South Korea's Kospi index rose over 1%. Shares in COVID-19 vaccine developer SK Bioscience, which made its market debut on Thursday, opened at double the IPO price of 65,000 won, then quickly jumped a further 30% to 169,000 won in early trade. It was the biggest IPO in South Korea in nearly four years.

The Asian markets tracked Wall Street's advance on Wednesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing above 33,000 points for the first time. The S&P 500 also closed at record high as the Fed indicated that it plans to keep interest rate as close to zero through the end of 2023, easing investor qualms.

Following the two-day policy meeting, the Fed predicted in its statement that the U.S. economy will likely experience strong economic growth and inflation this year as coronavirus vaccination is extended, while the massive government stimulus bill will also provide support.

The rise in economic forecasts, as well as the Fed's pledge to keep the interest rate target near zero, encouraged investors into riskier assets like stocks.

"We will continue to provide the economy support that it needs for as long as it takes," Fed Chair Jerome Powell said during a news conference.

The Fed statement "can be seen as supportive and the markets have taken it positively," said Paul Sandhu, head of multi asset quant solutions for Asia Pacific at BNP Paribas Asset Management. "Inflation fears are overblown."

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