HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Hong Kong shares headed higher on Friday following overnight gains on Wall Street, as investors kept hopes pinned on fiscal and monetary support from authorities even as the coronavirus pandemic continued to wreak havoc across global economies.
The Hang Seng Index added 1.2% to 23,634.14 by noon. Industrial & Commercial Bank of China and Bank of China (BOC) rose 1.4% each, while China Construction Bank advanced 1%. All three lenders are due to report annual results later on Friday.
Major equity indexes on Wall Street advanced for a third consecutive day on Thursday amid optimism over a $2 trillion stimulus package that is awaiting approval by the U.S. House of Representatives. The move follows several policy easing measures by the U.S. Federal Reserve this month to prop up the world's largest economy that has come to a standstill due to the pandemic.
Data released on Thursday showed U.S. jobless claims jumped to 3.28 million last week as the coronavirus ripped through the economy, leading to a number of layoffs. While the number of Americans filing claims was much larger than the median expectation of 1 million in a Reuters poll, it was lower than the top end of the forecast of 4 million.
Meanwhile, global cases of the coronavirus surpassed 500,000 on Thursday, with the number of cases in the U.S. surpassing China overnight. Total fatalities across the world were more than 23,000, with over 8,000 deaths in Italy alone.
Dickie Wong, executive director of research at Kingston Securities, said that despite rising confirmed cases in the U.S. and a higher unemployment rate, investors were focusing on the Fed's decisive measures to save the market and the "coming recovery."
"The stock market is always a few steps ahead of the reality," he said.
Still, he expects the Hang Seng Index to be volatile in the second quarter as geopolitical issues such as the U.S.-China trade war, remain a concern.
In the mainland, the Shanghai Composite Index rose 1.4%, while the yuan traded onshore added 0.1% against the dollar to 7.0625.
Sporting goods maker Li Ning jumped 16% in Hong Kong after reporting a more than doubling of its 2019 net profit and a 32% surge in revenue for the full year.
Lonking Holdings added 6% after the construction-machinery maker reported a 44% jump in 2019 net profit.
Home-appliances maker Haier Electronics advanced 1.5% following a 91.2% jump in 2019 net profit.
China Citic Bank rose 2.7% after reporting a 7.9% increase in profit for the year ended Dec. 31 and a 12.7% jump in net interest income.
Hong Kong Television Network fell 4.8% after saying its loss for 2019 widened to 289.91 million Hong Kong dollars ($37.4 million) from HK$133.10 million a year ago.
-- Benny Kung