Asian shares push higher, shrug off Covid concerns

Reuters SYDNEY | Updated on May 18, 2021

Nikkei rises 2.2 per cent, Hong Kong stocks open firm

Asian shares rose early on Tuesday, shrugging off worries about an increase in regional coronavirus infections and a subdued session on Wall Street, as inflation jitters helped push gold prices to three-month highs.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 1.13 per cent after a mixed session on Monday. Japan's Nikkei rose as much as 2.2 per cent, while Hong Kong's stocks opened up 0.87 per cent. China's blue-chip CSI300 index was slightly lower.

Spot gold traded around $1,871.46 an ounce, near a three-and-a-half month high, after the Empire State Manufacturing Survey, produced by the New York Fed, showed the highest prices paid since the series began in 2001.

"Markets appear primed to seize on any upside surprises to growth and inflation data as implying a more rapid lift-off from zero rates than the Fed policy makers' own projections indicate," Black Rock investment strategists said in a note.

However, Dallas Federal Reserve President Robert Kaplan on Monday reiterated his view that he does not expect interest rates to rise until next year, helping to reassure markets that the Fed will not tighten early, traders said.

Minutes of FedReserve’s policy meeting eyed

Markets are waiting on Wednesday's release of the minutes from the Federal Reserve's policy meeting last month, which could shed more light on the policy makers' outlook on inflation and an economic rebound.

In Australia, minutes of the central bank's May policy meeting showed it believed wages would likely need to expand "sustainably above 3 per cent" to generate inflation, underscoring how long rates could remain near zero. Wage growth is currently running at just 1.4 per cent.

Australia's benchmark rose 0.53 per cent, while Singapore stocks also recovered some losses, gaining 1.29 per cent after a 2 per cent fall on Monday as the country reported the highest number of local infections in months.

Shares in Taiwan, which is also seeing a spike in cases, also recovered as lawmakers said the country was in talks with the US for a share of the COVID-19 vaccine doses US President Joe Biden plans to send abroad.

The dollar teetered near multi-month lows against Europeanc urrencies as Treasury yields stalled in the wake of Kaplan's comments.

US Treasury yields traded one basis point wider to1.6505 per cent, while the two-year yield, which rises with traders' expectations of higher Fed fund rates, touched 0.1551 per cent compared with a US close of 0.153 per cent.

The dollar index was down 0.082 per cent, with the euro at $1.2157.

Overnight, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.16 per cent, to 34,327.79, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite dropped 50.93 points, or 0.38 per cent, to 13,379.05 and the pan-European STOXX 600 index lost 0.05 per cent.

MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe was 0.29 per cent higher at 700.50.

Oil prices rose, with Brent crude and West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude both up around 0.3 per cent in early Asian trade.

Published on May 18, 2021

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