Tuesday 24 September 2019

Asian shares edge higher, investors brace for US elections

(stock picture)
(stock picture)
Independent.ie Business Desk

Independent.ie Business Desk

Asian shares inched up on Tuesday, supported by Wall Street gains although momentum was tempered ahead of the US midterm elections, the first major electoral test of President Donald Trump's big tax cuts and hostile trade policies.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged up 0.4pc on a positive lead from Wall Street, but the gains were capped by falls in Chinese markets and regional technology shares.

Japan's Nikkei average climbed 1.1pc. The Shanghai Composite and blue-chip CSI 300 eased 0.2pc and 0.6pc, respectively. Both mainland benchmarks were able to claw back some of their earlier losses, however, on news that China's leadership was open to dialogue with the United States to resolve trade disputes.

Shares in Asia-Pacific suppliers of Apple, such as Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry, fell after a report in the Nikkei newspaper that Apple had told its smartphone assemblers to halt plans for additional production lines dedicated to the iPhone XR. The report drove Apple shares 2.8pc lower in US trade.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 gained 0.56pc, with financials such as Berkshire Hathaway supported by strong earnings.

Taking the lead from US and Asian peers, European futures pointed to a higher openings, with financial spreadbetters showing London's FTSE, Frankfurt's DAX, and Paris's CAC expected to rise between 0.2 and 0.4pc.

Ahead of Tuesday's US midterm elections, investors generally expect opposition Democrats to take over the House of Representatives while Trump's Republican Party is tipped to retain the Senate.

While political gridlock between the White House and Congress could hinder Trump's pro-business agenda and raise concerns about political instability, some analysts say such an outcome may have already been priced in by investors.

The Cboe Skew index, also known as the "black swan" index, hovered not far from its 2-1/2-year low hit Friday, indicating demand for options that provide protection remains tepid.

A higher skew typically indicates investors are buying more protection on heightened anxiety.

"Unlike the US Presidential election or the UK's Brexit referendum, the upcoming US (midterm) elections are not a binary event. So it's unlikely to send stocks significantly in one direction, apart from initial quick reactions," said Yasuo Sakuma, chief investment officer at Libra Investments.

"So with this one, I don't think there is much need to hedge against the black swan risk."

If the Republicans retain their House majority, global stocks are likely to rally on hopes of more tax cuts.

Trump said last month his administration planned to produce a resolution calling for a 10pc tax cut for middle-income households.

"Everyone still remembers strong equity rallies after Trump was elected two years ago. So initially stock markets will gain," said Norihiro Fujito, chief investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.

"But further tax cuts would boost already large fiscal deficits and push the 10-year US Treasuries yield above its October high almost instantly. Given rises in US bond yields triggered a correction in equities last month, any rally in stocks is unlikely to last long," he added.

The 10-year US Treasuries yield stood at 3.201pc, maintaining most of its gains following Friday's strong US jobs and wage data and staying not far from its 7 1/2-year peak of 3.261pc hit on October 9.

"Global equities have recovered after their fall in February, which was triggered by a rise in US yields. But this time a recovery will likely be capped because now markets do not have the support they had back in February from tame inflation and the economic boost from Trump's tax cuts," said Shuji Shirota, head of macro-economic strategy at HSBC in Tokyo.

Many investors also expect Trump to continue to take a hard line on trade, regardless of the outcome of the elections.

"The impact of trade war will start to appear in U.S. economic data in coming months," Shirota added.

In oil markets, crude prices wobbled near multi-month lows after the United States allowed eight countries to temporarily continue buying oil from Iran, addressing supply concerns as Washington formally imposed punitive sanctions on the Islamic republic.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures slipped 0.3pc to $62.89 a barrel, after hitting a seven-month low of $62.52 on Monday.

Brent crude futures dropped 0.6pc to $72.74 a barrel, near Friday's 2-1/2-month low of $72.16.

Both oil benchmarks have slid more than 15pc since hitting four-year highs in early October.

Moves in major currencies were modest ahead of the US election. The dollar rose 0.2pc against the yen to 113.44 yen, its highest level in four weeks.

The euro traded at $1.1409, about one cent above this year's low of $1.1301 touched on August 15.


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