Asian markets rise after Fed stimulus boosts Wall St

The coronavirus pandemic has hammered economies around the world, sending governments scrambling to put together massive stimulus measures

Asian markets were mostly higher on Friday after the latest US coronavirus stimulus measures boosted Wall Street overnight.

In its latest attempt to ease the economic pain inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the US Federal Reserve said it would pump $2.3 trillion through new lending programmes.

The pandemic has now claimed more than 94,000 lives around the world and hammered economies, sending governments and central banks scrambling to put together unprecedented, massive emergency measures.

The strong close on Wall Street boosted Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei 225, which finished 0.8 percent higher.

The market remains in a "tug-of-war between those who are pessimistic (about the pandemic) and those who are optimistic... they don't want to miss a rare chance to buy" shares at low prices, said Mutsumi Kagawa, chief global strategist at Rakuten Securities.

Seoul also rose, gaining 1.3 percent, and Taipei was up 0.4 percent. But Shanghai ended down one percent.

Hong Kong, Sydney, Wellington, and Singapore were closed for a public holiday.

The Fed appears to be "on a mission to blow holes in every dam that stops the flow of credit", said Stephen Innes, chief global markets strategist at AxiCorp.

"And it sure sounds like they have plenty more dynamite if needed."

The European Union also followed the US with its own rescue package worth 500 billion euros ($550 billion) to ease the impact of COVID-19 in the 27-nation bloc.

Millions of jobs have been shed during the pandemic, with data released Thursday showing 17 million people have lost their jobs in the United States alone since mid-March.

But investors appear to be focused more on the impact of the stimulus packages and if they will be able to achieve the stability governments are hoping for.

- Worst 'since Great Depression' -

The latest emergency measures came as the International Monetary Fund warned that 170 of its 180 members would see declines in per capita income this year.

"We anticipate the worst economic fallout since the Great Depression," said IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva, urging governments to provide lifelines to businesses and households alike, and cautioned that "it could get worse".

All major oil producers except Mexico, meanwhile, agreed to cut output and May and June by 10 million barrels a day after marathon talks to stabilise crude prices.

Oil has plummeted to near-two-decade lows in recent weeks because of the pandemic's impact on the global economy and a bruising price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.

But while Riyadh and Moscow have agreed, OPEC said the deal can only take effect after consent from Mexico -- which did not agree to its share of cuts.

Brent Crude was down 4.1 percent, and West Texas Intermediate was 9.3 percent lower.

- Key figures around 0745 GMT -

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.8 percent at 19,498.50 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 1.0 percent at 2,796.63 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: Closed for a public holiday

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0951 from $1.0929 at 2100 GMT Thursday

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 108.37 from 108.47

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2474 from $1.2464

Euro/pound: UP at 87.80 pence from 87.64 pence

Brent Crude: DOWN 4.1 percent at $31.48 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 9.3 percent at $22.76 per barrel

New York - Dow: UP 1.2 percent at 23,719.37 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 2.9 percent at 5,842.66 (close)