Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Tokyo — Bond yields climbed and stock markets held steady on Wednesday, as the hope of easing US-China tension and diminished risk of a no-deal Brexit prompted traders to take profit before key central bank meetings.

Oil prices also firmed, underpinned by a big drop in US crude stockpiles, after slipping the previous day.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.4% to hit a fresh five-and-a-half-week high.

Stock investors around the world continued to rotate into value stocks, representing a major reversal after many months of outperformance by growth shares such as tech companies.

Japan’s Nikkei average climbed 0.9%, with the Topix Value index jumping 1.9% whereas the Topix Growth added 0.8%.

The Shanghai Composite and the blue-chip CSI300 were almost flat and down 0.3%, respectively, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng advanced 1.4%.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 ended little changed as a rally in energy and industrial shares countered a drop in the technology and real-estate sectors with investors favouring value over growth.

“The sudden jump in value-orientated shares in the US and elsewhere has all the hallmarks of position unwinding by major hedge funds,” said Norihiro Fujito, chief investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.

“Such unwinding could continue for a few days but will likely end by the Fed's policy meeting.”

Such reversals began last week after the announcement of US-China trade talks in October and as the British parliament moved to prevent Prime Minister Boris Johnson from crashing the UK out of the EU without a deal.

Position unwinding was also apparent in bond markets ahead of key central bank policy announcements, including the European Central Bank (ECB) on Thursday and the US Federal Reserve next week.

“Global bond markets are experiencing so-called momentum crashes,” said Masanari Takada, cross-asset strategist at Nomura Securities, referring to a sudden and dramatic change in the direction of asset prices.

“Trend-following CTAs [commodity trading advisers] were forced to square their long positions in major bond futures.”

US bond yields jumped on Wednesday, with the 10-year treasuries yield rising more than 10 basis points to a one-month high of 1.745%.

It last stood at 1.713% in Asian trade. The Japanese 10-year Japanese government bond yield rose 1.5 basis point to minus 0.215% while the Australian 10-year yield rose more than five basis points to a six-week high of 1.142%.

In Europe, Germany’s 30-year benchmark bond yield briefly broke into positive territory for the first time since August 5.

Investors had bought bonds for many weeks on the expectation that the ECB will dole out stimulus, with a cut in interest rates of at least 10 basis points fully priced in.

Some traders also expect more measures including a deeper interest rate cut and a restart of its asset purchase programme.

The Fed is also widely expected to deliver an interest-rate cut next week.

Germany also signalled its readiness for relaxing its staunch opposition to deficit spending to support the economy, leading to speculation Berlin could issue more debt and curbing appetite for German bonds.

Finance minister Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday the country can counter a possible economic crisis by injecting billions of euros into the economy.

In the currency market, the dollar traded at ¥107.72, its highest in six weeks.

The euro stood little changed at $1.1050, while the British pound stood at $1.2351, near its six-week high of $1.2385 hit earlier in the week.

Oil prices rose on Wednesday after an industry report showed that crude stockpiles in the US fell last week by more than twice the amount that analysts had forecast. Prices hovered near their strongest in six weeks despite small losses on Tuesday after US. President Donald Trump fired national security adviser John Bolton.

The departure of Bolton, who took a strident stance against Iran, raised speculation of improvement in US-Iran relations and an eventual return of Iranian crude exports to the market.

Still, the market was underpinned by Saudi Arabia’s new energy minister’s assurances of continued output cuts by Opec.

In addition, geopolitical tensions in the Middle East are nowhere near subsiding after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his intention to annex a large swathe of the occupied West Bank, a move condemned by Arab League foreign ministers.

Brent crude futures rose 0.7% to $62.80 a barrel while US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude gained 0.8% to $57.84 a barrel.

Reuters