TOKYO, Jan 10 2019 : Asian shares began cautiously today, struggling to rise after a multi-day rally as markets await more news on U.S.-China trade talks that have raised hopes of a deal to avert an all-out trade war.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was a tad lower, trading not far off a near four-week high.
Australian shares were down 0.2 percent, while Japan’s Nikkei eased 1.2 percent.
Wall Street’s S&P 500 rose 0.41 percent yesterday, extending its gains from 20-month lows touched around Christmas to more than 10 percent.
Delegations from China and the United States ended three days of trade talks in Beijing yesterday in the first face-to-face negotiations since both sides agreed a 90-day truce in a trade war that has disrupted the flow of hundreds of billions of dollars of goods.
There were few concrete details on the meetings in Beijing, which were not at a ministerial level, so were not expected to produce a deal to end the trade war.
A multi-day rally in risk assets continued overnight after minutes from the Fed’s December meeting showed a range of Fed policymakers said last month they could be patient about future interest rate increases and a few did not support the central bank’s rate increase that month.
A clutch of Fed officials said yesterday they will wait to deliver more interest rate hikes so the central bank can further assess growing risks to an otherwise solid U.S. economic outlook.
“The financial markets had been pushing the Federal Reserve to change their tune,” said Chris Weston, Melbourne-based head of research at foreign exchange brokerage Pepperstone.
“We’ve got that situation played out. The markets have had their day, they have pushed the Federal Reserve to work towards a sort of concerted patience stance. That has all happened. Now we’ve got back to an equilibrium point.”
The rally has gained traction since last Friday, when Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said he was aware of risks to the economy and would be patient and flexible in policy decisions this year.
E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 were last down nearly 0.35 percent.
Oil also caught investors’ attention after U.S. crude and Brent jumped overnight, helped by optimism over easing Sino-U.S. trade tensions, while OPEC-led crude output cuts also provided support.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures yesterday gained almost 5.2 percent, while Brent crude futures were up more than 4.6 percent. The sharp gains extended a rally that has pushed futures up about 14 percent this year.
U.S. crude was last trading 0.55 percent lower at $52.03 a barrel.
Pepperstone’s Weston said he viewed further gains in oil prices as a key driver for a further rise in risk appetite.
If U.S. crude futures can break through the $55 level, “you’re going to see real yields probably lower. That’s really good for the cost of money and taking some further headwinds out of the U.S. dollar,” he said.
U.S. Treasury yields last stood at 2.696 percent, down from 2.710 percent at the U.S. close yesterday.
The dollar remained on the defensive after hitting its lowest level since mid-October amid signs Fed policymakers are becoming more cautious about future rate hikes and as investors unwound safe-haven bets due to optimism over the trade talks.
The greenback was down nearly 0.2 percent against the euro at $1.1560. The single currency gained 0.9 percent against the dollar during the previous session, its biggest one-day gain since late June.
Against a basket of six major rivals, the dollar was 0.1 percent lower after falling as low as 95.116, its lowest since Oct. 17, during the previous session.
In commodity markets, spot gold edged down to $1,292.70, but still not far off a near seven-month peak of $1.298,60 scaled on Friday. – Reuters