Asian shares advance after Wall Street rally

BANGKOK (AP) — Shares advanced Friday in Asia, tracking a rally on Wall Street after a group of big banks offered a lifeline to First Republic Bank, the lender investors had focused on in their latest hunt for troubles in the banking industry.

Benchmarks rose more than 1% in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Tokyo. U.S. futures were mixed and oil prices climbed.

The S&P 500 jumped 1.8% Thursday, erasing earlier losses following reports that First Republic Bank could get help or sell itself to another bank. Markets have gyrated this week on concerns over the toll on banks from the fastest set of interest rate hikes in decades. The turmoil flared with last week’s collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, the second largest bank failure in U.S. history.

“The market remains cautious; traders do not want to get overexcited, especially with investors still focusing on what can go wrong instead of what could go right,” Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management said in a report.

In Asia, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng

jumped 1.4% to 19,482 and the Shanghai Composite index

added 0.7% to 3,251.03.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index

gained 1.1% to 27,333.79 and the Kospi

in Seoul was up 0.7% at 2,394.27. Shares in major Japanese banks, which fell sharply at times this week, were mostly slightly higher.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200

added 0.4% to 6,994.80. India’s Sensex

was 0.1% higher while Taiwan’s Taiex

surged 1.5%.

Stocks rallied Thursday on Wall Street after 11 of the biggest banks offered help for First Republic

with a combined deposit of $30 billion.

All told, the S&P 500

rose 68.35 points to 3,960.28. The Dow

gained 1.2% to 32,246.55 and the Nasdaq

jumped 2.5% to 11,717.28.

Since SVB’s failure, investors have been on the lookout for banks with similar traits, such as lots of depositors with more than the $250,000 limit that’s insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., or lots of tech startups and other highly connected people that can spread worries about a bank’s strength quickly.

First Republic Bank rose 10% Thursday after slumping as much as 36% early in the day.

The Federal Reserve’s fastest barrage of hikes to interest rates in decades, to drive down inflation, has shocked the banking system following years of historically easy conditions.

Higher rates raise the risk of a recession later on and hurt prices for stocks, bonds and other investments. That latter factor was one of the issues hurting Silicon Valley Bank because high rates forced down the value of its bond investments.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told a Senate committee on Thursday that the nation’s banking system “remains sound” and Americans “can feel confident” about their deposits.

Wall Street increasingly expects this week’s turmoil to push the Federal Reserve to hike interest rates next week by only a quarter of a percentage point. That would be the same sized increase as last month’s, half the hike of 0.50 points that was earlier expected.

The European Central Bank on Thursday raised its key rate by half a percentage point, brushing aside speculation that it may reduce the size because of all the turmoil around banks.

All the stress in the banking system has raised worries about a potential recession because of how important smaller and mid-sized banks are to making loans to businesses across the country. Oil prices have slid this week on such fears.

Reports on the U.S. economy are showing mixed signals. A report said fewer workers applied for unemployment benefits last week than expected.

In other trading, U.S. benchmark crude oil

gained 44 cents to $68.79 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It picked up 74 cents on Thursday to $68.35 a barrel.

Brent crude
the pricing basis for international trading, climbed 46 cents to $75.16 a barrel.

The dollar

fell to 132.93 Japanese yen from 133.76 yen. The euro

rose to $1.0648 from $1.0611.