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Asian markets improve after Wall Street’s third day in the green

A currency dealer walks in front of screens showing South Korea's benchmark stock index and the Korean won/CNH exchange rate in a trading room at KEB Hana Bank in Seoul on March 24, 2020. (Jung Yeon-Je/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNN) — Asia Pacific markets mostly moved higher on Friday, building on Wall Street’s positive momentum overnight.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 gained 1.3%, while South Korea’s Kospi advanced 2.6%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 1.7%. China’s Shanghai Composite was up 0.9%.

All of those indexes are on pace to report weekly gains after the tremendous downward spiral that characterized much of March — though not enough to to pull Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong out of bear markets.

“Overall, there has been a general shift to neutrality from the perfect bear market conditions late last week, which is a good thing,” wrote Stephen Innes, chief global markets strategist at AxiCorp, in a research note.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was the regional outlier on Friday, shedding 2% in Sydney. But it’s still poised to record a gain for the week.

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Asia Pacific’s gains followed a strong performance from US stocks on Thursday, which climbed despite the worst jobless claims data on record.

The Dow finished up 6.4%, or 1,352 points, emerging from the bear market it fell into on March 11. The S&P 500 ended the day up 6.2%, and the Nasdaq rose 5.6%.

Investors remained optimistic as US lawmakers put the finishing touches on a $2 trillion stimulus bill that will provide a boost to the economy, which has been battered by coronavirus. The Senate passed the bill 96-0, and the House of Representatives is expected to vote on the legislation Friday.

“The market is running with the assumption that while this tumult will be the deepest recession in modern-day financial history, it will also be the shortest,” Innes wrote.

US stock futures, though, tumbled in after-hours trading. Dow futures fell 300 points, or 1.4%, erasing slight gains made earlier in the evening. S&P 500 futures were down around 1.4% and Nasdaq futures lost about 1.3%.

While financial markets are gaining this week, the coronavirus outbreak that threw them out of whack continues to spread. Nearly a third of the world’s population is living under coronavirus-related restrictions, and the United States now has the highest number of known cases of coronavirus globally with more than 82,000.

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