BEIJING -- Asian stock markets followed Wall Street higher on Wednesday after the Federal Reserve chairman said higher U.S. inflation probably is temporary, helping to calm fears central bankers might feel pressure to roll back economic stimulus.
Market benchmarks in Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul advanced. Sydney declined.
Overnight, Wall Street's benchmark S&P 500 index rose 0.5% to near last week's all-time high after Fed chairman Jerome Powell said inflation is mostly in areas that suffer supply shortages. He said inflation that hit 5% over a year earlier in May is likely to subside as economic activity revives.
Powell “affirmed a more balanced policy stance to some recent hawkish Fed rhetoric,” Anderson Alves of ActivTrades said in a report.
The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.5% to 3,573.96 and Tokyo's Nikkei 225 gained 0.1% to 28,916.68. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong advanced 1.1% to 28,611.27.
The Kospi in Seoul was 0.3% higher at 3,275.49 while Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 shed 0.4% to 7,309.40.
New Zealand and Southeast Asian markets also advanced.
On Wall Street, the S&P 500 climbed to 4,246.44 after Powell acknowledged prices for used cars, airline tickets and some other goods were higher than anticipated by the Fed but said the increases would be temporary.
“The incoming data are very much consistent with the view that these are factors that will wane over time,” Powell said in an appearance before Congress.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.2% to 33,945.58 and the Nasdaq composite rose 0.8% to 14,253.27.
Most major central banks have kept interest rates near record lows over the past year, helping to propel a stock market rebound. Investors have wavered between optimism about the rollout of coronavirus vaccines and unease that rising inflation as economic activity revives might lead central bankers to cut short that support.
Markets are close to record highs, but that masks churning below the surface after the Fed said last week it might consider raising short-term interest rates by late 2013, earlier than expected.
In cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin was trading at just under $34,000 a day after falling below $30,000.
Prices of cryptocurrencies plunged after Chinese banks said Monday they would step up enforcement of a government on trading.
In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude gained 36 cents to $73.21 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, advanced 42 cents in London to $74.50 per barrel.
The dollar rose to 110.75 Japanese yen from Tuesday's 110.63 yen. The euro declined to $1.1925 from $1.1936.