Asian shares doze in data lull, New Zealand dollar takes a dive

Published: February 07, 2019 09:50:29 | Updated: February 09, 2019 11:42:14


People are reflected in a stock quotation board showing share price of Nissan Motor Co outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, November 20, 2018. Reuters

Asian share markets were in a muted mood on Thursday and looked set for a sleepy session with China still on holiday and no major economic data on the diary.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was little moved in early trade after ending almost unchanged on Wednesday.

Japan’s Nikkei dipped 0.2 per cent, while E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 were off 0.06 per cent in very thin trade.

Wall Street had already snoozed through a subdued session, though disappointing revenue forecasts hammered shares of the major videogame makers.

Electronic Arts Inc tumbled 13.3 per cent and Activision Blizzard Inc sank 10.1 per cent.

The Dow fell 0.08 per cent, while the S&P 500 lost 0.22 per cent and the Nasdaq 0.36 per cent.

Markets are still waiting on developments in the Sino-US trade dispute after President Donald Trump offered little new to chew on in his State of the Union speech.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday that he and other US officials will travel to Beijing next week for trade talks, aiming to clinch a deal to avert a March 2 increase in US tariffs on Chinese goods.

WE’RE ALL DOVES NOW

In currency markets, the early mover was the New Zealand dollar which slid after local data showed unemployment, job gains and wages growth all missed forecasts.

“The figures present a more modest picture of the labor market over the last year,” said Michael Gordon, senior economist at Westpac. “Soft jobs growth and hours worked increase the risk of another weak economic print in the December quarter.”

The kiwi slid to $0.6772, losing 1.6 per cent in the past 24 hours, as investors narrowed the odds on a cut in interest rates. Bonds rallied hard, with two-year yields dropping 7 basis points to 1.67 per cent, well below the 1.75 per cent cash rate.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand holds its first policy meeting of the year next week and markets are wagering it will take a dovish stance.

Its neighbor, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), caused ripples on Wednesday when it tempered a long-standing tightening bias and indicated the next move in rates could just as well be down as up.

The Aussie dollar duly dived 1.8 per cent to stand at $0.7110 and gave a broad fillip to the US dollar.

The dollar index has now risen for five straight sessions to reach 96.400, recovering almost all the losses suffered after the Federal Reserve all but abandoned plans for more rate hikes.

Less lucky was the euro, which was dragged back to $1.1366 in the wake of a dismal reading on German industrial output, according to Reuters news agency.

The dollar could make no headway on the yen, which benefited from its own safe-haven status, and idled at 109.93.

It broad gains still put pressure on gold, which eased to $1,306.84 per ounce, slipping further from last week’s top of $1,326.30.

Oil prices were underpinned by signs of strong US demand for distillate products and tightening global crude supply.

Brent crude futures gained 71 cents higher on Wednesday to settle at $62.69 and were yet to trade. US crude eased 6 cents in Asia to $53.95 a barrel.

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