Asia stocks up after tax reform optimism lifts Wall Street, dollar buoyant

06 Oct, 2017 8:58 am

TOKYO (Reuters) – Asian stocks rose on Friday after optimism over US tax reform plans lifted Wall Street shares to new highs, and the dollar hovered near a seven-week peak as new indicators pointed to solid economic growth.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan gained 0.3 percent, poised for a 1.6 percent gain on the week.

Japan’s Nikkei climbed 0.25 percent after setting a new two-year high, Australian stocks rose 0.8 percent and South Korea’s KOSPI advanced 0.9 percent.

The S&P 500 posted its sixth straight record high close on Thursday, its longest run since 1997, as investors cheered increased prospects for a tax overhaul with Congress moving closer to agreement on a budget resolution.

“We have the very first step where Congress passed the budget details, so you’re one step nearer to tax reform,” said Heng Koon How, head of markets strategy for United Overseas Bank (UOB) in Singapore.

Data out on Thursday showed the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell more than expected, the trade deficit narrowing, and evidence of strong orders for core capital goods.

The latest boost in US economic optimism lifted Treasury yields and helped take the dollar index against a basket of major currencies to the seven-week high.

US data released this week has been solid on the whole, with investor focus now turned to the closely-watched nonfarm payrolls report due at 1230 GMT.

Of key interest to the financial markets was how hurricanes Harvey and Irma may have affected the labor market in September.

“The hurricanes have made employment conditions difficult to pin down and market reaction could be limited regardless of how strong or weak the outcome is,” said Shin Kadota, senior strategist at Barclays in Tokyo.

Economists expect just 90,000 new US jobs for September, down from 156,000 in August, according to a Reuters poll.

“If the results are strong, it would enhance expectations for the Fed to raise interest rates in December. But whether expectations for rate hikes beyond December could be raised is another matter, with the Fed keeping a cautious stance on prices and with (Chair Janet) Yellen’s term ending in February,” Kadota at Barclays said.

Interest rate futures traders are now pricing in an 86 percent likelihood of a December rate hike, up from 78 percent a week ago, according to the CME Group’s FedWatch Tool.

The dollar index was effectively flat at 93.969 after rising to 93.990, its highest since Aug. 17.

The euro was steady at $1.1710 after losing 0.4 percent the previous day. It was on track to end 0.9 percent lower on the week, during which it plumbed a near two-month low of $1.1695.

The dollar was little changed at 112.855 yen and on track for a weekly gain of 0.3 percent.

The pound was particularly vulnerable against the bullish dollar after a poorly-received keynote speech by British Prime Minister Theresa May deepened market doubts about her ability to govern effectively.

Sterling retreated to a one-month low of $1.3088 after sliding 1 percent overnight.

Falling bond prices pushed up the 10-year US Treasury yield to 2.348 percent, nudging it back towards a three-month high of 2.371 set on Monday. The yield had momentarily dropped to 2.300 percent mid-week.

In commodities, Brent crude was down 0.2 percent at $56.88 a barrel. The futures contract had surged 2.1 percent overnight on signs Saudi Arabia and Russia would limit production through next year, although caution towards a tropical storm heading for the Gulf of Mexico cut short the advance.

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