Sunday 21 January 2018

Asia shares nudge up as G20 talks, oil holds gains

A man walks in front of an electronic stock board at a securities firm in Tokyo as Asian stock markets tumbled (AP)
A man walks in front of an electronic stock board at a securities firm in Tokyo as Asian stock markets tumbled (AP)

Asian shares made guarded gains on Friday as a gathering of world finance leaders provided a welter of reassuring comments, but little in the way of actual policy stimulus.

Spreadbetters expect the positive momentum to extend to Europe, forecasting a higher open for Britain's FTSE, Germany's DAX and France's CAC.

Setting the tone for the Shanghai meeting of the Group of 20, China's central bank chief, Zhou Xiaochuan, said Beijing still had the room and tools to support the world's second largest economy.

Yet, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble was quick to declare that the scope for monetary and fiscal policy was exhausted globally and called for more structural reform.

The reaction in share markets was cautious. Shanghai stocks added 0.5pc, but the bounce looked unconvincing against Thursday's 6-percent slump.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS gained 0.8pc, while South Korea rose 0.2pc. Japan's Nikkei gained 1pc but could not quite sustain a two-week top.

The S&P 500 had already scored its highest close since early January after oil staged a turnaround to end Thursday 3pc higher on speculation a March meeting of major producers might stabilize prices.

U.S. crude CLc1 was trying to hold those gains on Friday, dipping just 3 cents to $33.04 a barrel. Brent LCOc1 was 16 cents lower at $35.13.

On Wall Street, the Dow rose 1.29pc, while the S&P 500 added 1.14pc and the Nasdaq 0.87pc. Data showing a 4.9pc rebound in U.S. durable goods orders underpinned the better mood.


With the recent market turbulence front and center, the G20 is under pressure to agree a coordinated stimulus program that could stop a global slowdown from turning into something worse.

Yet, G20 meetings have a long history of disappointing and analysts see little reason why this one should end differently.

"Amidst market turbulence there is a call to arms for the G20 to get the global economy back on track," said David Cannington, a senior economist at ANZ.

"While we can hope for a substantive policy prescription, it's a forlorn one. There is simply too much self-interest globally and that dominates group interest."

Europe would seem to need the help as long-term inflation expectations fell to record lows, piling pressure on the European Central Bank for more aggressive easing.

The closely-watched measure of inflation EUIL5YF5Y=R slid to 1.38pc, having dived 35 basis points in just three months even as the ECB expanded its asset buying campaign.

As a result, yields on German 10-year paper DE10YT=RR closed at their lowest since last April and contributed to a drop in U.S. yields US10YT=RR.

That kept the euro pinned at $1.1060 and far from the February top of $1.1375. The dollar was steady on the yen at 112.865, almost two yen higher from this week's trough.

Sterling was still nursing its wounds near a seven-year low against the dollar and on track for its heaviest weekly fall since 2009 on worries about a possible British exit from the European Union.


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