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The Financial Express

Asia stocks reach three-month peaks, resilient to US riots

REUTERS | Published: June 01, 2020 12:18:04 | Updated: June 01, 2020 14:53:33


A passerby wearing a protective face mask, following an outbreak of the coronavirus, walks past an electronic board showing the graphs of the recent movements of Japan's Nikkei share average outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, March 06, 2020. — Reuters/Files A passerby wearing a protective face mask, following an outbreak of the coronavirus, walks past an electronic board showing the graphs of the recent movements of Japan's Nikkei share average outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, March 06, 2020. — Reuters/Files

Asian shares pushed to three-month highs on Monday as progress on opening up economies helped offset jitters over riots in US cities and unease over Washington's power struggle with Beijing.

There was also relief that while President Donald Trump began the process of ending special US treatment for Hong Kong to punish China, he left their trade deal intact.

"With specific and verifiable measures against China appearing to be weak, markets may draw hollow consolation that the US is treading carefully," said analysts at Mizuho in a note.

After a cautious start Asian markets were led higher by China on signs parts of the domestic economy were picking up. Hong Kong managed to rally 3.6 per cent, while Chinese blue chips put on 2.2 per cent.

An official business survey from China showed its factory activity grew at a slower pace in May but momentum in the services and construction sectors quickened.

A private survey showed a return to growth in May, though exports remained depressed.

That helped lift MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan 2.1 per cent to its highest since early March. Japan's Nikkei added 1.1 per cent to also reach a three-month peak.

E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 recovered to be up 0.1 per cent, having been down 1.0 per cent in early trade. EUROSTOXX 50 futures firmed 1.4 per cent and FTSE futures 1.2 per cent.

The resilience was notable given major US cities were cleaning up streets strewn with broken glass and burned out cars as curfews failed to stop confrontations between activists and law enforcement.

The turmoil was a fresh setback for the economy which was only just emerging from a downturn akin to the Great Depression. Following poor data on spending and trade out on Friday, the Atlanta Federal Reserve estimated economic output could drop a staggering 51 per cent annualised in the second quarter.

The May jobs report due out on Friday is forecast to show the unemployment rate surged to 19.8 per cent, smashing April’s record 14.7 per cent. Payrolls are expected to drop by 7.4 million, on top of the 20.5 million jobs lost the previous month.

Years, not months

"Current unemployment numbers go far beyond what has been experienced in any post-war recession," wrote Barclays economist Christian Keller in a note.

"To the extent that some sectors may never return to pre-pandemic business-as-usual, labour faces a substantial challenge to reallocate workers," he added. "Such a process could be a matter of years rather than months or quarters and in the meantime it would weigh on consumer demand."

Bond investors suspect economies will need massive amounts of central bank support long after they reopen and that is keeping yields super low even as governments borrow much more.

Yields on US 10-year notes were trading steady at 0.66 per cent having recovered from a blip up to 0.74 per cent last month when the market absorbed a tidal wave of new issuance.

The decline in US yields has been a burden for the dollar, but the world's reserve currency also tends to benefit from safe-haven status to limit the losses.

Early Monday, the dollar was 0.2 per cent softer on a basket of peers at 98.018 having touched an 11-week low of 97.944 on Friday. It was steadier on the yen at 107.70.

Much of the dollar's recent decline has come against the euro which has been broadly boosted by plans for an EU stimulus package. The single currency was last up at $1.1131, after climbing 1.8 per cent last week.

Markets are awaiting a meeting of the European Central Bank on Thursday where it is widely expected to raise its asset buying by around 500 billion euros to 1.25 trillion.

In commodity markets, gold added 0.6 per cent to $1,1737 an ounce.

Oil prices initially eased on worries about US demand, but found support from reports Russia had no objection to the next meeting of OPEC and its allies being brought forward to June 04 from the following week.

Brent crude futures were off 07 cents at $37.77 a barrel, while US crude was flat at $35.49.

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