Wednesday 22 May 2019

Asian shares rise on Fed dovishness; growth concerns linger

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Shares in Asia rose on Thursday after the US Federal Reserve abandoned forecasts for any interest rate hikes this year, but concerns over US-China trade talks and slowing global growth continued to weigh on investor confidence.

European equity markets were expected to follow Asia's lead. Spreadbetters see London's FTSE rising 0.2pc at the open, while Paris' CAC is seen up 0.4pc, and Frankfurt's DAX up 0.1pc.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.5pc.

Chinese blue-chips, which spent the morning swinging between small losses and gains, were up 0.4pc in afternoon trade, while Seoul's Kospi also added 0.4pc as regulators announced plans to cut the stock transaction tax this year.

Australian shares ended flat after see-sawing throughout the day. A drop in the jobless rate tempered market expectations of a rate cut.

Markets in Japan were closed for a public holiday.

Gains in the broad Asian index followed a wobbly session on Wall Street, after a move toward risk taking sparked by the Fed's dovish shift was overtaken by growth and trade concerns.

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday warned that Washington may leave tariffs on Chinese goods for a "substantial period" to ensure Beijing's compliance with any trade deal.

China-US trade talks are set to resume next week.

Trump's comments had more of an effect on US shares than their Asian counterparts, said Sean Darby, chief global equity strategist at Jefferies in Hong Kong, adding that a move lower in US rates "actually has a far bigger impact or efficacy in EM and Asia than in the United States itself."

"We've felt that clients have been positioned quite bearishly at the end of last year and have been trying to catch up, so any of the dips have tended to be bought," he added.

In comments at the end of a two-day policy meeting Wednesday, the Fed dropped projections for any interest rate hikes this year amid signs of an economic slowdown, and said it would halt the steady decline of its balance sheet in September.

But while investors cheered the Fed's new approach, the reasons behind it are creating concern.

"What the Fed is doing is trying to engineer a soft landing. What the market is hearing though is things have gotten so weak so quickly ... and the earnings outlook is so dire that real money managers don't want to chase this rally," Greg McKenna, strategist at McKenna Macro wrote in a morning note to clients.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.55pc to 25,745.67, the S&P 500 lost 0.29pc to 2,824.23 and the Nasdaq Composite added less than 0.1pc to 7,728.97.


The Fed's comments dragged yields on benchmark US Treasuries lower, with 10-year notes yielding 2.5244pc compared with a US close of 2.537pc on Wednesday.

The two-year yield, sensitive to expectations of higher Fed fund rates, was at 2.4001pc, nearly unchanged from its US close of 2.4pc.

The dollar steadied after falling on Wednesday, with a basket tracking the currency against major rivals bouncing 0.2pc to 95.940. The greenback was down about 0.2pc against the Japanese currency, buying 110.46 yen.

The euro was up 0.1pc on the day at $1.1422, while sterling rebounded from a sharp drop Wednesday after British Prime Minister Theresa May asked the EU to delay Brexit until June 30, a shorter extension than some in the market had been expecting.

May later said she was "not prepared to delay Brexit any further."

The pound was up 0.2pc at $1.3221.

Global growth worries extended to commodity markets, where oil prices, which had jumped Wednesday on supply concerns, retreated.

US crude fell 0.1pc to $60.17 a barrel after touching four-month highs on Wednesday. But Brent crude regained some ground, adding 0.15pc to $68.60.

Weakness in oil prices is seen to be limited by efforts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to curb supply. Widely watched US data also showed supplies were tightening.

Gold gained on the weaker dollar, with spot gold adding about 0.5pc to $1,318.94 per ounce.


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