Asian stocks rise as Clinton, Trump argue economic policy

BEIJING, China – Asian stocks rose Thursday as traders watched U.S. presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump debate economic policy and looked ahead to a European Central Bank meeting.

KEEPING SCORE: Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 rose 1.4 per cent to 17,235.50 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 0.5 per cent to 23,411.73. The Shanghai Composite Index shed 0.1 per cent to 3,082.62. Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 advanced 0.1 per cent to 5,441.61 and Seoul’s Kospi was almost flat at 2,040.60. India’s Sensex added 0.4 per cent to 28,101.41. Benchmarks in Thailand and Indonesia gained, while New Zealand and Singapore retreated.

CLINTON VS TRUMP: Investors watched the candidates spar at their third debate over who had a better plan to spur U.S. economic growth. Trump, who has rattled markets by calling for curbs on trade and immigration, said he would hire experts, and not “political hacks,” to negotiate more favourable trade deals. Clinton, seen as more favourable to trade, said she was focused on helping the middle class, while Trump’s plans are geared toward the rich.

ANALYSTS’ TAKE: “The presidential debate is a must watch for investors in the Asia Pacific region,” said Michael McCarthy of CMC Markets in a report. “There are at least two points of acute market interest. One of the six topics is the U.S. economy, and any clarification of policy in this area could influence trading today. Secondly, a clear win for either candidate is important. Markets are likely to buy Clinton and sell Trump.”

EURO ZONE WATCH: Markets looked ahead to a meeting of the euro zone central bank for insight into its intentions for its 1.7 trillion euro ($1.9 trillion) bond-buying stimulus program. Most analysts think that while the European Central Bank will stick to its policies, governor Mario Draghi will leave open the possibility of extending its bond-buying program, which is meant to increase lending, growth and inflation. Analysts think the ECB will wait at least until December’s meeting to make any decision.

U.S. JOBS: Investors awaited U.S. jobless data for signs of when the Federal Reserve might raise interest rates. Last week’s 246,000 unemployment claims took the four-week moving average below 250,000. Rising employment would support the Fed in plans to hike interest rates that been kept near zero since the 2008 global crisis. “Wages started to rise in early 2015 and with luck will continue north in the months ahead,” said DBS Bank in a report. “Not for nothing do many officials feel that policy rates should do the same.”

WALL STREET: Stocks rose as oil and gas exploration companies gained on higher oil prices. Transocean jumped 5.7 per cent and Halliburton added 4.3 per cent. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 40.68 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 18,202.62. The S&P 500 index rose 4.69 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 2,144.29. The Nasdaq composite index added 2.58 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 5,246.41.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude shed 35 cents to $51.47 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract surged $1.20 on Wednesday to close at $51.82. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 27 cents to $52.40 in London. It gained 99 cents the previous session to $52.67.

CURRENCY: The dollar gained to 103.72 yen from Thursday’s 103.38 yen. The euro fell to $1.0965 from $1.0973.