US Fed Chair Janet Yellen says the case for increasing rates has ‘strengthened 'in recent months'
On Wednesday, Janet Yellen said that while the US economy was weak, the Fed’s policies had helped in achieving its goals on employment and inflation Reuters

Most Asian stock market indices were trading higher on Thursday (16 February), with the Shanghai Composite up 0.37% at 3,224.98 as of 5.23am GMT. The bullish trend follows a positive overnight close on the Wall Street.

On Wednesday, US Federal Reserve chairwoman Yellen testified in front of Congress for the second straight day. She said that while the US economy was weak, the policies of the US central bank had helped achieve its goals on employment and inflation.

Meanwhile, separately, New York Fed President William Dudley also said on Wednesday that the central bank could increase rates soon. "We expect to gradually remove further monetary policy accommodation and snug up interest rates a little bit further in the months ahead," he said. This follows Yellen suggesting on Tuesday that the Fed could increase rates as early as in March. This had then led to an increase in the stock prices of US banks.

Analysts said this hawkish nature of the Fed led to a bullish trend in equity markets. "What's most important here is that the market is just so comfortable with a somewhat hawkish Fed and we can even go as far as saying hawkish commentary is now being taken as an equity positive," Chris Weston, chief market strategist at spreadbetter IG, was quoted as saying by CNBC.

Indices in the region were trading as follows at 5.34am GMT:

CountryIndexPriceUp/Down%Change
Hong KongHang Seng Index24,093.79Up0.41%
JapanNikkei 22519,341.98Down0.49%
South KoreaKOSPI2,080.21Down0.18%
IndiaBSE28,198.50Up0.15%
AustraliaS&P/ASX 2005,816.30Up0.12%

On 15 February, the FTSE 100 closed 0.47% higher at 7,302.41, while the S&P 500 index closed 0.50% higher at 2,349.25.

Among commodities, oil prices declined amid data that showed a record high US crude and gasoline inventory. As of 12.29am EST, WTI Crude Oil was down 0.13% at $53.04 (£42.54) a barrel, while Brent Crude was trading 0.02% lower at $55.74 a barrel.