Asian shares, dollar up on Fed’s optimism; earnings in focus
HONG KONG – Asian stocks tiptoed higher on Thursday and the dollar consolidated recent gains after the U.S. Federal Reserve painted a relatively bright picture of the world’s biggest economy, but a deepening sell-off in commodities kept gains in check.
Prospects of stronger U.S. growth in coming months lifted Asian stocks in early trade, with Japan’s Nikkei .N225 up 1.2 percent and Australian shares adding 0.7 percent. But South Korean shares .KS11 fell 0.7 percent.
A dollar-denominated index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS rose 0.4 percent after Chinese stocks had a quiet opening.
Gains were muted before the earnings season kicks off in full throttle next week, when companies are broadly expected to post disappointing results on the back of weak economic data in recent months, particularly for trade.
Gavekal strategists noted that Asia’s trade performance had been disappointing in recent months. After a two-year post-crisis rebound in 2010-2011, export growth in the region has slowed to an annual average of 7.5 percent in U.S. dollar terms and 6 percent in volume terms this year compared to U.S. dollar growth rates of 30 percent in the years before the crisis.
“The markets still think that the world’s economy remains fragile, given a fall in Chinese shares and commodity prices. The Fed surely doesn’t want to screw up its exit from zero rates by hastily moving and hitting already fragile commodities market and the world economy,” said Tohru Yamamoto, chief fixed income strategist at Daiwa Securities.
Subdued external demand is expected to weigh on corporate earnings, with CLSA strategists expecting first-half earnings growth at Hong Kong and Chinese companies to be weak and guidance for the third quarter unlikely to be better.
Chinese equities are already a third lower than their June highs.
On Wall Street, U.S. stocks rose broadly on the Fed’s optimism and strong corporate earnings, with the S&P 500 .SPX rising 0.7 percent to 2,108.57.
After a two-day policy meeting, Fed officials said they felt the economy had overcome a first-quarter slowdown and was “expanding moderately”, leaving the door open for an interest rate increase in coming months.
Commodities extended their decline, with copper CMCU3, considered a bellwether for global economic activity, trading near a six-year low at $5,322 a tonne.
The broad Thomson Reuters CRB commodities index .TRJCRB also hit a six-year low.
Oil prices, smarting from supply concerns due to rising U.S. shale oil output and an easing of sanction on Iran, rose after weekly data showed an unexpectedly large drawdown in U.S. crude inventories.
Front-month Brent crude futures LCOc1 rose overnight to settle at $53.38 a barrel, recovering from Tuesday’s six-month low of $52.28.
In the currency market, the dollar index rose to 97.160 .DXY =USD, having rebounded from Monday’s two-week low of 96.288.
The euro fell 0.2 percent to $1.0964 EUR=, near its lowest level of the week. In recent weeks, the euro has tended to fall when risk appetite is strong as it is used as a funding currency for investment in risk assets.
The dollar rose about 0.1 percent in early Asian trade to 124.075 yen JPY=, hitting its highest level so far this week. -Reuters