Asian stocks pull ahead as dollar edges back, US yields resume climb

25 Nov, 2016 9:04 am

SINGAPORE – Asian stocks advanced on Friday as the Thanksgiving break in the United States helped slow a relentless surge in the dollar that has sucked capital out of most emerging markets.

The respite for Asian assets may be short-lived, however, with US Treasury yields resuming their climb after the holiday as investors bet that President-elect Trump will adopt policies that increase spending and debt, as well as spur higher growth and inflation.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan added 0.3 percent. It is poised to end the week 1.4 percent higher, its biggest weekly gain in two months. But it remains down almost 3 percent from its close on Nov. 8 before Trump’s surprise election. His protectionist campaign promises are widely seen as negative for the region.

Emerging market stocks broadly have also taken a hit, with the MSCI Emerging Markets index down 0.4 percent on Friday. Although the index is up 0.9 percent for the week, it remains nearly 6 percent below its Nov. 8 close.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major global peers, was steady at 101.68 on Friday, down from its Thursday peak of 102.05, the highest level since March 2003.

The US currency has been on a tear since Trump’s win. Strong US manufacturing and consumer data this week have bolstered the case for higher interest rates. The dollar index has risen 0.5 percent this week, and almost 4 percent since Nov. 8.

“The trend is likely to remain with the US Fed poised to strike in Dec and market positioning for US President-elect Trump to fulfill his fiscal and tax cut plans,” Singapore-based UOB Group’s global economics and markets research team wrote in a note Friday.

The expectations are triggering a dramatic surge in bond yields, which is pulling capital out of emerging markets.

The two-year US Treasury yield jumped to a 6-1/2-year high of 1.1630 percent on Friday. It was at 1.1625 percent as of 0302 GMT. The 10-year yield, which hit a 16-month high of 2.417 percent this week, was at 2.4057 on Friday.

The dollar’s strength on the back of rising yields has pummeled other currencies. It climbed to an eight-month high versus the yen on Friday, and was up 0.3 percent from Thursday’s close at 113.67 yen on Friday. It has gained 2.5 percent this week.

That has proved a boon for Japanese stocks, with the Nikkei 225 advancing 0.8 percent on Friday to the highest level since January. It is on track for a weekly gain of 2.8 percent, and is up 7.6 percent since before the US election.

Analysts also expect Japanese consumer prices, which fell for their eighth straight month in October, to rebound as the weaker yen pushes up import costs. The dollar’s surge and nervousness ahead of Italy’s constitutional referendum on Dec. 4 have weighed on the euro.

The common currency slumped to the lowest level since March 2015 against the dollar on Thursday. It recovered 0.2 percent to $1.05685 on Friday. Wall Street was closed on Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday and trading will end early on Friday. European stocks ended on a positive note, with the Stoxx 600 index gaining 0.3 percent at the close.

Oil prices were mostly steady as investors looked to next week’s meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) for clarity on proposed output caps. “While US assets are exploring strange new worlds, commodities, specifically crude oil and gold prices, remained relatively flat into the end of the week,” Jingyi Pan, market strategist at IG in Singapore, wrote in a note.

“Consolidation ahead of major events are no surprise and we are expecting this with what could be reckoned as the most important event of the year for crude oil prices next week – the November 30 OPEC meeting.” US crude futures were flat at $47.92, set to clock a weekly increase of 5 percent, building on last week’s 5.3 percent jump.

Global benchmark Brent crude slipped 0.1 percent to $48.93, on track for a weekly gain of 4.4 percent. Gold remained under pressure, retreating 0.6 percent to $1,176.06 an ounce on Friday, down 2.6 percent this week. It has plunged a whopping 7.7 percent since its close before the US election results were announced. -Reuters

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