SHANGHAI, March 16 Hong Kong's benchmark Hang
Seng Index closed at a 19-month high on Thursday after the
Federal Reserve hiked interest rates, as expected, but signalled
no pick-up in the pace of tightening.
Investors had feared the Fed was considering faster hikes
that buoy the dollar and lure funds out of emerging markets and
back to the United States.
The Hang Seng index ended up 2.1 percent at 24,288.28
points, its highest close since early August, 2015.
The China Enterprises Index gained 2.5 percent to
10,526.46 points, in its best day since May 25, 2016.
The Fed raised its benchmark policy rate by 25 basis points
overnight, as widely expected.
The move was matched by Hong Kong's central bank, as the
city's currency is pegged to the U.S. dollar, but some
commercial banks kept their best lending rates unchanged.
While higher borrowing costs typically pressure
rate-sensitive sectors such as property and banking, both jumped
on the Fed's benign rate outlook.
Fed policymakers maintained expectations for a total of
three rate increases this year, defying predictions from some
analysts that it would turn more aggressive as U.S. economic
data continues to improve.
Main sectors rallied across the board, led by material
and energy plays, as oil extended gains from
the previous session after data showed U.S. stockpiles eased
from record highs.
China Unicom jumped 5.2 percent, shaking off
profit drop to settle at a near one-year high.
(Reporting by the Shanghai Newsroom; Editing by Kim Coghill)