Thursday, August 18, 2022

Asian shares extend a global rally as dollar languishes

Asian shares extend a global rally as dollar languishes

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Asian shares extended a global rally on Wednesday as strong US corporate earnings and the expected resumption of Russian gas supply to Europe helped lift risk-on sentiment and ease fears of a recession, while the dollar was mired at two-week lows.

European futures also pointed to a stronger open, with the pan-region Euro Stoxx 50 futures last up 0.2%.

Traders are awaiting the guidance from a European Central Bank policy meeting on Thursday, after Reuters reported policymakers are mulling raising rates by a bigger-than-expected 50 basis points, pushing the euro higher. 

The S&P 500 futures and Nasdaq futures both firmed 0.5%, after stronger-than-expected results from U.S companies overnight including Netflix Inc (NFLX.O) offered respite to investors worried about higher inflation and Federal Reserve rate hikes denting corporate bottomlines.

On Thursday, the S&P 500 (.SPX) gained 2.8% while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) added 3.1%.

Netflix Inc (NFLX.O) predicted that it would return to customer growth this quarter, after a smaller-than-expected drop in subscribers in the second quarter. 

In Asia, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan (.MIAPJ0000PUS) rose 1.2%, driven by a 1.6% jump in resources-heavy Australia (.AXJO) and 1.7% gain in Hong Kong stocks (.HSI). Japan's Nikkei (.N225) surged 2.5%.

Chinese shares (.CSI300) rose 0.4%, lagging gains in other markets, as the central bank kept its benchmark lending rates unchanged amid a shaky economic recovery from COVID lockdowns.

"In addition to a tech led rally in equities, the main news flow has been mostly about Europe which has lifted the euro back above 1.02 with core European yields also broadly higher," said Rodrigo Catril, Senior FX Strategist at NAB, in a research note.

The euro gained another 0.2% to $1.0244 on Wednesday, after racking up its biggest one-day percentage gain in a month during the previous session, as traders raised bets for a bigger rate hike after the Reuters report.

Sources also told Reuters that Russian gas flows via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline are seen restarting on time on Thursday after the completion of scheduled maintenance, easing investors' concerns about gas supply to Europe. 

"So it has been a risk positive night, but recession fears certainly haven't gone away and the rebound in equities over the past week could as much reflect a recovery from oversold levels and extreme levels of pessimism," said Catril from NAB.

The Bank of Japan also delivers a policy decision on Thursday, but is not expected to make any changes to its ultra-easy stance.

On Wednesday, the dollar eased 0.1% against its major peers, languishing at two-week lows amid easing expectations that the Fed would resort to a 100-basis-point hike at its meeting next week.

Markets still expect a large 75-basis-point interest rate rise from the Fed to rein in white-hot inflation.

"There are many events ahead – in Europe over the next 2-3 days, and more broadly as the equities earnings season gets under way," said Sim Moh Siong, senior currency strategist at Bank of Singapore.

"A further bounce in risk assets is quite possible but we think it is too early to shift from a defensive stance. The greenback will likely remain on the front foot into 3Q22."

A closely watched part of the US yield curve remained inverted on Wednesday, with the two-year yield last at 3.2335%, little changed from the previous close of 3.2310%.

The yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes stood at 3.0228% compared with its close of 3.019% on Tuesday.

In the commodities market, oil prices were pressured by global central bank efforts to tame inflation and ahead of expected builds in US crude inventories as product demand weakens.

US crude dipped 0.3% to $103.88 a barrel while Brent crude fell 0.6% to $106.69 per barrel.

Spot gold eased at $1,709 an ounce.