An investor reads the finance section of a newspaper at a brokerage in Beijing. Picture: REUTERS
An investor reads the finance section of a newspaper at a brokerage in Beijing. Picture: REUTERS

Singapore — Asian stocks set a fresh two-year high on Monday, boosted by stronger than expected economic growth in China and bets that lacklustre US data will keep the Federal Reserve cautious about the pace of further policy tightening.

Chinese blue-chips recouped steep early losses after data showed the world’s second-largest economy grew at a slightly faster than expected pace of 6.9% in the second quarter, thanks to robust industrial output, retail sales and exports.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan extended earlier gains to climb 0.4% after the buoyant China readings. Japanese markets were closed for a holiday.

Australian shares, which started the day in negative territory, were 0.1% higher, while South Korea’s Kospi jumped 0.4%. By midday in China, the CSI 300 was 0.2% higher, after slumping as much as 2.2% earlier. The Shanghai Composite narrowed earlier losses of as much as 2.6% to trade 0.1% lower.

Jingyi Pan, a market strategist at IG in Singapore, said the market fell initially after news at the weekend that President Xi Jinping wanted to create a new cabinet-level committee to co-ordinate financial oversight, sparking the concern of further policy tightening.

Asian markets also rode the updraft from a strong Wall Street performance on Friday.

The Dow and S&P 500 hit record highs after data showed consumer prices were unchanged in June and retail sales fell for a second consecutive month, pointing to tame inflation and subdued expectations of strong economic growth in the second quarter, which could make Fed policy makers more cautious.

The chances of a Fed rate increase in December fell to 43.1% after the data came out from 55% late on Thursday, according to the CME Group’s Fedwatch tool.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of trade-weighted peers, hit a 10-month low early on Monday. It was trading flat at 95.176 after losing 0.6% on Friday.

"Friday’s US data led to more [dollar] selling," Stephen Innes, senior trader at Oanda, wrote in a note.

"With less than a 50% December rate hike probability priced in, and with no supportive Fed speak on the calendar before July 26th, the dollar could struggle."

US 10-year treasury yields, however, which fell to as low as 2.279%, recovered to end at 2.3319% on Friday.

The dollar was 0.1% higher at ¥112.61 early on Monday, after closing down 0.6% on Friday.

The Bank of Japan (BoJ) is expected to keep its monetary policy settings unchanged when it meets on Wednesday and Thursday.

The weakness in the dollar saw other currencies soar, with the Australian dollar hitting its highest level in more than two years and the Canadian dollar touching a one-year high early on Monday.

The Aussie pulled back to trade 0.2% lower than its Friday close at $0.7811, following a 1.3% surge, and the loonie was 0.1% weaker at C$1.2655 to the US dollar, retaining most of Friday’s 0.6% jump.

The euro slipped slightly to $1.14625, but remained close to its highest in a year hit last week, after gaining 0.6% on Friday.

In commodities, oil inched higher, extending last week’s gains on signs of lower US inventories and stronger demand. US crude rose 0.2% to $46.64 a barrel. Global benchmark Brent added 0.3% to $49.03.

The dollar’s loss was gold’s gain, with the precious metal rising on Friday. Spot gold was 0.15% higher at $1,230.85/oz.


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