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Asian stocks advance in commodities-inspired rally

EconomyFeb 23, 2021 02:24
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© Reuters. Men holding umbrellas walk near an electric board showing Nikkei index at a brokerage in Tokyo

By Anshuman Daga

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Asian shares rebounded from two-week lows on Tuesday as rising commodity prices boosted market expectations of an improved growth outlook, a day after rising U.S. Treasury yields and inflation prospects hit U.S. tech shares.

Europe's Eurostoxx 50 futures and Germany's DAX futures FDXc1 both gained 0.2%, while futures for London's FTSE FFIc1 rose 0.3%. E-mini futures for the S&P 500 advanced 0.5%.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan advanced 0.4% to 726.6 after dipping to 719.8, the lowest level in two weeks. The gauge has eased from last week's record top but is still up about 9% so far this year.

Buoyed by the rally in commodities, the Australian S&P/ASX 200 index to rose nearly 0.9%. Singapore's Straits Times index put on 0.6% and Taiwan was up 0.2%. Hong Kong advanced 1%, while the tech-laden South Korea's Kospi lost 0.3%.

Japanese markets were closed for a public holiday.

"We are in unprecedented times, but the likelihood is that low interest rates will persist long after the world economy has shaken off the pandemic," Keith Wade, chief strategist at Schroders (LON:SDR) said in a note.

"For financial markets, such an outlook will intensify the search for yield and no doubt create volatility and bubbles as investors chase returns in "the zero" environment, Wade added.

On Wall Street, high-growth stocks such as Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Tesla weighed on the Nasdaq Composite, which shed 2.5% on Monday.

Commodity prices again strengthened on Tuesday. Oil prices rose on a tight global supply outlook after U.S. production was hammered by frigid weather and an approaching meeting of top crude producers is expected to keep output largely in check.

Analysts said markets were taking a cue from stronger commodity prices that the rise implied strong economic activity.

Brent crude was up 1.1% to $66.4, holding firm near one-year highs. Spot gold also rose to a one-week high to $1,812.6 an ounce as inflation worries boosted the bullion's appeal as a hedge.

The strength in commodities kept the Australian dollar steady at $0.79 against the U.S. dollar, just near a three-year high.

Bond yields have risen sharply this month as prospects of more U.S. fiscal stimulus boosted hopes for a faster economic recovery globally. However that is also fuelling inflation worries, prompting investors to sell growth stocks that have rallied in recent months.

"Real U.S. interest rates are now in positive territory, which has created some concern around the consequences for equities markets," Cesar Perez Ruiz, chief investment officer at Pictet Wealth Management said in a report.

The dollar index was steady at 90.026, with the euro up 0.1% at $1.2166. The Japanese yen edged up versus the greenback to 105.09 per dollar.

Cash Treasuries were not traded in Asia with Tokyo shut for holidays, but futures firmed slightly and showed an implied ten-year Treasury yield of 1.34%.

Markets will turn their focus to Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell who is delivering his semi-annual testimony on Tuesday. Powell is likely to reiterate a commitment to keeping policy super easy for as long as needed to drive inflation higher, analysts said.

"In addition to the ever-present question of what it may take for the Fed to consider tapering, the most pressing investor interest is at what point the Fed could respond to the level or volatility of interest rates after the recent increases," foreign exchange strategist at Citi said in a note.

Asian stocks advance in commodities-inspired rally
 

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