Stock market today: Asian shares mostly rise, lifted by bull market on Wall Street

TOKYO — Asian shares mostly rose Friday, led by a jump on the Tokyo Stock Exchange where share prices got a boost of optimism from a new bull market on Wall Street.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 surged 1.8% in morning trading to 32,217.76. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.4% to 7,126.50. South Korea’s Kospi added 0.9% to 2,634.96. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng advanced 0.3% to 19,352.59. The Shanghai Composite inched up less than 0.1% to 3,215.62.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 rose 0.6% to carry it 20% above the bottom it hit in October. That means Wall Street’s main measure of health has climbed out of a painful bear market, which saw it drop 25.4% over roughly nine months.

The arrival of a bull market also doesn’t mean the stock market has made it back to its prior heights. A 25% drop for the S&P 500 requires a 33% rally just to get back to even.

In Thursday’s trading, the S&P 500 rose 26.41 points to 4,293.93. The Dow gained 0.5% to 33,833.61, and the Nasdaq rose 1% to 13,238.52.

Declaring the end of a bear market may seem arbitrary, and different market watchers use different definitions, but it offers a useful marker for investors. It also provides a reminder that investors who can hold on through downturns nearly always eventually have made back all their losses in S&P 500 index funds.

Even though it was driven by so many superlatives — the worst inflation in generations and the fastest hikes to interest rates in decades, for example— this most recent bear market lasted only about nine months. It stretched from Jan. 3, 2022, when the S&P 500 set a record, until Oct. 12, when it hit bottom. That’s shorter than the typical bear market, and it also resulted in a shallower loss than average, according to data from S&P Dow Jones Indices.

“In hindsight, it might not look that bad, but it certainly feels bad in the moment,” said Brent Schutte, chief investment officer at Northwestern Mutual.

Last year was more painful for investors since both stocks and bonds lost money, he said, something that hasn’t happened in decades.

A good chunk of this bull market’s gains has been because the economy has refused to fall into a recession despite repeated predictions for one. It’s withstood the highest interest rates since 2007, three high-profile collapses of U.S. banks since March, another threat by the U.S. government of an economy-shaking default on its debt and a series of other challenges.

“Bottom line, the economy has been very resilient,” said Anthony Saglimbene, chief markets strategist at Ameriprise Financial. “While it’s too early to know this for sure, stocks look like they’re doing what they normally do when all the negativity has been discounted into the stock market: They start moving higher in anticipation of better days ahead.”

The economy has avoided a recession so far because of a remarkably solid job market and spending by consumers. Hopes also are rising that the Fed may soon stop hiking interest rates.

The broad expectation among traders is that the Fed will hold rates steady next week, which would mark the first meeting where it hasn’t raised rates in more than a year. While it may hike rates one more time in July, the hope on Wall Street is that it won’t go beyond that. Inflation has been coming down from its peak last summer.

Challenges remain. A report this week showed the highest number of U.S. workers applied for unemployment benefits last week since October 2021.

After the unemployment data hit the market, Treasury yields gave up gains from earlier in the morning. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 3.71% from 3.78% late Wednesday. The two-year yield, which moves more on expectations for the Fed, fell to 4.53% from 4.55%.

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude fell 44 cents to $70.85 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It shed $1.24 to $$71.29 a barrel on Thursday.

Brent crude, the international standard, dipped 45 cents to $75.51 a barrel.

In currency trading, the U.S. dollar edged up to 139.28 Japanese yen from 138.90 yen. The euro cost $1.0778, down from $1.0783.


AP Business Writer Stan Choe contributed.

Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter