Asian stocks climb; euro surrenders gains as French election jitters return

Reuters Singapore | Updated on January 15, 2018 Published on April 21, 2017


Asian stocks were set to end the week with a bang, lifted by bets on strong US earnings and tax reform, while the euro retreated from a three-week high as jitters returned over French presidential elections on Sunday after a shooting in Paris.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan added 0.6 per cent, although it is still poised for a 0.3 per cent weekly loss.

Asian steelmakers mostly clocked gains despite the launch of a trade probe by the US against China and other exporters of cheap steel into the US, after the move sent their US counterparts surging over 8 per cent overnight.

Chinese steelmaker Baoshan Iron and Steel Co. added 0.8 per cent, Angang Steel added 0.8 per cent, while Beijing Shougang was steady and Hesteel Co. swung between gains and losses.

Other major steel producers in the region also gained, with Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. jumping 1.35 per cent, and South Korea's Posco surging 2.1 per cent.

“It's questionable whether there will be actual curbs or actions after a U.S. probe,” said Yi Hyun-soo, a steel analyst at Yuant Securities. “We'll have to see what kind of action will be taken.”

Japan's Nikkei advanced 0.9 per cent, on track for a weekly gain of 1.4 per cent.

Chinese shares added 0.35 per cent, and Hong Kong stocks increased 0.4 per cent.

The euro was marginally higher at $1.0716 on Friday. On Thursday, it jumped to 1.0778, its highest level since March 29, and French stocks soared 1.5 per cent after polls showed French centrist Emmanuel Macron easily beating far-right, anti-European Union candidate Marine Le Pen in the second round on May 7 after both prevail in the first round on Sunday.

But the euro fell back to close only slightly higher after a shooting on the Champs-Elysees boulevard, in which one policeman was killed and two others were wounded. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, according to the group's Amaq news agency, and the Paris prosecutor said the gunman had been identified.

“Euro bulls will definitely respond to positive news around Macron, but that dissipates as the reality of low turnouts sets in,” said Alfonso Esparza, senior currency analyst at OANDA in Toronto.

“Everybody remembers the Brexit polls and even the US election polls. After those misses it is going to take a lot to make the markets trust them again.”

French 10-year Treasury yields slumped to a three-month low of 0.856 per cent on Thursday, while safe-haven German bund yields jumped to 0.244 per cent, their highest close in two weeks.

Markets are awaiting several economic indicators from Europe later in the session, including Eurozone manufacturing and services figures for April and British retail sales for March, to be followed by US manufacturing and services data for April and existing home sales for March.

Wall Street indexes closed between 0.75 per cent and 0.9 per cent higher on rising expectations for first-quarter corporate profits. S&P 500 stock index company earnings now are expected to have gained 11.1 per cent in the first quarter.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he would unveil a plan to cut taxes “soon, very soon” and predicted it would be passed by Congress this year.

The dollar was slightly lower at 109.22 yen, retaining most of Thursday's 0.4 per cent gain. It is up 0.6 per cent for the week.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of trade-weighted peers, was fractionally higher at 99.82, on track to lose 0.7 per cent this week.

In commodities, oil was stronger on Friday following Thursday's choppy session as a tussle continued between worries over rising US production and optimism over comments from leading Gulf oil producers that an extension to OPEC-led supply cuts was likely.

US oil jumped 1 per cent to $50.76 a barrel on Friday, its biggest one-day gain in almost two weeks, shrinking losses for the week to 4.55 per cent.

Global benchmark Brent was more muted, rising 0.1 per cent to $53.04, heading for a 4.1 per cent weekly loss.

Gold slipped 0.1 per cent to $1,279.91 an ounce, as investors remained hesitant ahead of the French election. It is poised for a weekly loss of 0.4 per cent.

Published on April 21, 2017
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