Stocks

Asian shares up on robust metal prices, modest gains on Wall Street

Reuters Tokyo | Updated on January 09, 2018

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Caution reigns ahead of this week's Jackson Hole Fed conference

Asian shares rose on Tuesday after modest gains on Wall Street, while robust metals prices underpinned some regional markets even as investors remained wary ahead of the annual central banking conference in Jackson Hole later this week.

Futures suggested the brighter mood would carry through to Europe, with the Eurostoxx 50 up 0.4 per cent, DAX futures up 0.5 per cent and FTSE futures 0.4 per cent higher.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.7 per cent.

On Wall Street on Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 marked modest gains, though the Nasdaq Composite edged down slightly.

The Shanghai Composite Index advanced 0.1 per cent, while the blue-chip CSI300 index was up 0.2 per cent. The MSCI Asia ex-Japan materials index was 1 per cent higher, buoyed by recent spot price gains.

The Australian stock market got a helping hand from strong gains for global mining giant BHP Billiton , which reported a surge in annual underlying profit to $6.7 billion on Tuesday.

Commodity prices

Zinc edged down a day after hitting its highest since October 2007, while copper inched back towards its highest peak since November 2014 scaled on Monday. Nickel , used in stainless steel, crept slightly higher to log a fresh high for the year.

“Commodity prices are holding firm, particularly base metals,” and this has underpinned commodity-related currencies such as the Australian dollar, said Sue Trinh, head of Asia FX strategy at RBC Capital Markets in Hong Kong.

Nonetheless, Trinh cautioned that commodities have mostly firmed “on speculative Chinese investment flow from the wealth management industry, so we question the real demand''.

Korea tensions

South Korean shares added 0.5 per cent, despite lingering worries about tensions on the Korean peninsula.

The country's forces began computer-simulated military exercises with the United States on Monday, which Pyongyang has denounced as a “reckless” step towards a nuclear war.

Australian shares rose 0.4 per cent, while Japan's Nikkei stock index finished down 0.1 per cent.

The dollar steadied against its Japanese counterpart, after slumping to four-month lows last week, up 0.3 percent at 119.25.The euro edged down 0.1 per cent to $1.1801, but rose 0.2 per cent to 128.92 yen.

“If you look at the corporate earnings side, it is quite encouraging, now that some export-related companies have decided to change their euro/yen assumptions from around 115 to 125 or so,” expecting the Japanese currency to trade stably against its European counterpart, said Akio Yoshino, chief economist at Amundi Japan Ltd.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major rivals, was up 0.1 per cent to 93.218 .

Dollar faces selling pressure

The dollar has recently faced selling pressure from tepid US inflation data which have fed into expectations the Federal Reserve will adopt a patient approach to further monetary tightening.

Political turmoil in Washington has also hampered the greenback as investors have begun to doubt President Donald Trump's ability to implement much of his aggressive stimulus and tax reform measures.

“The dollar was the loser against all of its pairs and I think that's broadly reflective of fading expectations of what the Fed might do,” said Bill Northey, chief investment officer at US Bank Private Client Group in Helena, Montana.

“Fed fund futures are showing well below even odds at this point for a move between now and the year-end,” he said.

Jackson Hole meet

Expectations of what might emerge from the Fed's annual conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming are also “relatively tempered,” Northey said.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen is scheduled to speak at the conference, but central bank observers do not expect her to give new guidance on policy.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi will not deliver any new policy message at Jackson Hole, two sources familiar with the situation said.

Crude oil prices firmed, lifted by indications that supply is gradually tightening, especially in the United States. Brent crude futures added 23 cents to $51.89 per barrel, while US crude rose 18 cents to $47.55.

Published on August 22, 2017

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