Asian markets head into weekend on positive note
AFP – Asian markets were on course Friday to end the week on a positive note following the lead from Wall Street, with energy firms lifted by a rally in oil prices.
While the volatility that greeted the start of February has subsided for now, traders continue to fret over the prospect that US borrowing costs are likely to rise further as the world’s top economy powers ahead.
"Investors are just nervous about interest rates," Paul Nolte, a portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago, told Bloomberg News.
"Everybody is waiting for more economic data to confirm or deny whatever the Fed position is. It’s a big case of the nerves."
Most equities in Asia sank on Thursday after the Fed released minutes pointing towards a number of rate hikes this year owing to an expected surge in inflation as Donald Trump’s tax cuts kick in and economic growth improves.
However, Friday saw a bounce-back as investors tracked their New York counterparts.
"The minutes were far more balanced than the equity market sell-off suggested," said Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trading at OANDA.
"The discussions about their inflation target being symmetric indicate that the Feds are less concerned about the updraft from inflationary pressures than current market pricing."
Tokyo ended the morning 0.4 percent higher. Hong Kong climbed more than one percent, Shanghai added 0.7 percent, Sydney and Singapore each put on 0.8 percent, and Seoul jumped 1.2 percent. Wellington, Taipei and Jakarta were also up.
Energy firms across the region were well up, recovering some of Thursday’s losses, after oil prices jumped on the back of data showing US stockpiles fell last week. Forecasts had been for a rise.
The news sent crude sharply higher on Thursday as it eased worries about a pick-up in US production, which was threatening to negate the output cap by OPEC and Russia. Both main oil contracts continued to rise in Asia.
"The market’s been concerned about US production ramping, so as long as you still have these healthy inventory reports, it helps ease some of the fears," Craig Bethune, a senior portfolio manager at Manulife Asset Management, said.
On forex markets the dollar ticked slightly higher against the euro after the single currency was boosted by European Central Bank minutes showing a cautious move towards an exit from crisis-era stimulus.
– Key figures around 0230 GMT –
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.4 percent at 21,814.31 (break)
Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 1.1 percent at 31,290.08
Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.7 percent at 3,289.70
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.2317 from $1.2323 at 2150 GMT
Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3950 from $1.3952
Dollar/yen: UP at 106.89 yen from 106.74 yen
Oil – West Texas Intermediate: UP 11 cents at $62.88 per barrel
Oil – Brent North Sea: UP seven cents at $66.46 per barrel
New York – DOW: UP 0.7 percent at 24,962.48 (close)
London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.4 percent at 7,252.39 (close)