Asian shares made early gains on Thursday as upbeat Wall Street earnings supported global investor sentiment, although trade war jitters pushed China’s offshore yuan to a fresh one-year low.
The dollar retreated from a three-week high as investors cashed in on gains the currency made after US Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s two-day testimony reinforced a strong economic outlook.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.53 per cent, while Japan’s Nikkei and the Australian benchmark advanced 0.42 per cent and 0.38 per cent, respectively.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.32 per cent and the S&P 500 gained 0.22 per cent to hit a more than five-month high, while the Nasdaq Composite declined marginally by 0.01 per cent.
Stock markets were also supported by the Powell reiterating that the US economy was healthy, even though he warned that rising world protectionism would over time pose a risk to the global economic expansion.
“While strong U.S. corporate earnings certainly helped boost sentiments, but that’s not enough to push the stocks meaningfully higher from here,” said Yasuo Sakuma, chief investment officer at Libra Investments.
On the foreign exchange market, the trade war fears between the United States and China kept the offshore yuan to 6.7650 per dollar, to hit its lowest level since July, 2017.
The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies, rose to a three-week high of 95.4 before settling around 95.08, up 0.2 per cent. Against the Japanese yen, the dollar hit a 6-1/2 month high of 113.140 yen on Wednesday. The euro was down 0.16 per cent to $1.164.
In his two-day congressional testimony, the Fed’s Powell said he believed the United States was on course for years more of steady growth, and played down the risks to the US economy of an escalating trade conflict.
However, in the Fed’s Beige book released on Wednesday, manufacturers in every one of the central bank’s 12 districts expressed concern about the impact of tariffs, even as the US economy continued to expand at a moderate to modest pace.
“Trade war fears are something that won’t go away overnight. Investors need to be prepared for various possibilities, such as the United States versus China and the United States versus European Union,” said Libra’s Sakuma.
Benchmark US 10-year notes fell in price to yield 2.875 per cent, from 2.862 per cent on Tuesday. The US yield curve remained near its flattest in nearly 11 years.
Oil prices rose 1.0 per cent overnight after US government data indicated bullish demand for gasoline and distillates, which overshadowed a surprise build in US crude inventories and US crude oil production’s hitting 11 million barrels per day for the first time.
US crude last traded at $68.86 per barrel, up 0.15 per cent on the day, and Brent was at $72.82, down 0.11 per cent, in Asian trade.
Spot gold was little changed, after falling to a one-year intra-day low of $1221.50 per ounce on Wednesday.
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