Asia shares relieved by Powell pick, pause for US jobs test
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Asian shares took a breather on Friday as investors gave a guarded reception to Republican plans for massive US tax cuts, while welcoming the appointment of a centrist at the helm of the Federal Reserve.
Apple’s stock reached new heights after it forecast holiday sales would beat market expectations, a likely positive for its many suppliers scattered across Asia. EMini futures for the Nasdaq were already up 0.3 percent in reaction.
A holiday in Japan kept volumes light, while investors observed the usual caution ahead of the US payrolls report which is expected to show a big bounce back from September’s hurricane-hit result. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan inched up 0.15 percent, to be just a whisker from its highest since late 2007.
Australia’s main index firmed 0.6 percent, while China’s blue chips were a fraction softer. News that Federal Reserve Governor Jerome Powell would be the new head of the US central bank was well flagged, but still something of a relief.
“He is seen as very much the continuity candidate, he hasn’t dissented in his time as a Fed Governor and his thinking is seen as very much allied to the status quo data-driven style at the Fed,” said David de Garis, a director of economics at NAB.
In Washington, House Republicans finally unveiled long-delayed plans for deep tax cuts that President Donald Trump has promised, setting off a frantic race in Congress to give him his first major legislative victory.
Passage of legislation that mainly favours corporations and the wealthy was far from certain, and some business groups quickly came out against it. “The tax package will undergo several re-writes and given the contentious debate on day one the final version is likely to be delayed and will be smaller in scope,” said Richard Franulovich, an economist at Westpac. “The market reaction to the tax plan details has been equally lukewarm.”
While the Dow rose 0.35 percent on the back of banking shares, the S&P 500 added just 0.02 percent and the Nasdaq eased 0.02 percent. Housing stocks also slid amid concerns over the tax plan’s cap on deductions for mortgages. Currency investors were equally underwhelmed, leaving the US dollar flat against most peers as Treasury yields dipped. Against a basket of currencies it was stuck at 94.672 .DXY after a week of narrow range-trading.
It was also steady on the yen at 114.00 having repeatedly failed to break resistance in the 114.28/45 zone. Not so steady was sterling, which took a hammering overnight when the Bank of England hiked rates for the first time in a decade but said further moves would be “very gradual”.
The pound suffered its largest single day slide against the euro since October last year and was last huddled at 89.20 pence. On the US dollar it was down at $1.3061, having shed 1.45 percent on Thursday. In commodity markets, spot gold was steady at $1,276.36 an ounce, after touching the highest since Oct. 20 at$1,284.10 on Thursday.
Oil prices edged back up toward recent two-year peaks as OPEC-led output cuts tightened supplies and drained inventories. Brent crude gained 23 cents to $60.85 per barrel. The benchmark hit $61.70 on Wednesday, its highest since July 2015. US crude added 26 cents to $54.80, almost 30 percent above its June lows.