Stocks rally on boost from strong global growth
Asian shares joined a global rally to reach their highest in a decade on Wednesday as strong world growth and rising corporate profits lured hordes of investors into equities, while oil prices jumped closer to a recent 2-1/2 year top.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan added 0.4pc to Wednesday's 1.3pc rise - the biggest gain in eight months, supported by energy and technology sectors.
The index has been on an uptrend most of this year, posting a monthly loss only once in 2017. For the year so far, it is up about 33pc, on track for its best annual performance since a 68pc jump in 2009.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng index is up 35.5pc year-to-date while China's CSI 300 has risen 27.4pc so far in 2017.
Pointing to a positive start for European and US shares, both FTSE futures and S&P E-mini futures inched higher. The S&P 500 had closed at a record high on Tuesday.
"These returns underscore the synchronized, above-trend global economic expansion and robust earnings growth in emerging market (EM) countries, led by Asia," said Andrew Swan, head of Asian and global EM equities at BlackRock Investment.
"We believe these factors still have the potential to propel stock prices even higher, though not at the current rate or in a straight line."
Every Asian stock market was in the black on Wednesday, a rare occurrence. Japan's Nikkei was up 0.5pc, South Korea's KOSPI climbed 0.4pc and Australia's benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index inched higher towards critical chart level of 6,000 points.
A strengthening global economy has fed an insatiable appetite for equities this year, with Asia's trade-dependent nations enjoying robust overseas sales in a boon to corporate earnings.
But some money managers are starting to feel the jitters as the bullish consensus grows, among them French investment house Societe Generale.
"A low volatility... with rather an extreme positioning is a dangerous combination, which we recently likened to dancing on the rim of a volcano," SocGen said in a note, predicting the S&P 500 will fall back to 2,000 by 2019 from 2,599 now.
Some equity investors are worried a US rate hike next month and further tightening in 2018 could dampen the mood.
The US Treasury yield curve has flattened to its lowest in a decade as benign inflation and hunger for yield have supported longer-dated debt. Benchmark 10-year note yields have inched lower to 2.35pc.
But yield on the 2-year Treasury is at the highest since 2008 and set to surpass those on Australia's 2-year government bonds for the first time since December 2000.
In currencies, the US dollar was generally on the back foot against major rivals, falling for a second straight day on the Japanese yen.
The Australian dollar slipped to $0.7562, not far from a five-month trough of $0.7532 touched on Tuesday, as the Aussie's attraction as a carry trade was undermined by higher short-term U.S. yields.
The euro was steady at $1.1744, drifting away from a recent one-month peak of $1.1860.
In commodities, oil prices rose as ongoing cuts in piped Canadian crude to the United States added to falling U.S. crude inventories, while expectations of a prolonged OPEC-led production cut also offered support.
U.S. light crude added 86 cents to $57.69 while Brent crude climbed 43 cents to $63, not far from a near 2-1/2 year peak of $64.65 touched earlier this month.
Copper futures extended gains for a fourth straight day, while spot gold was barely changed at $1,281.62.