People walk past an electronic board showing Japan’s Nikkei average and the yen’s exchange rate against the dollar outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan. Picture: REUTERS/ TORU HANAI
People walk past an electronic board showing Japan’s Nikkei average and the yen’s exchange rate against the dollar outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan. Picture: REUTERS/ TORU HANAI

Sydney — Asian shares scaled eight-month peaks on Friday as a last-gasp Sino-US trade deal and a likely major election win by Britain’s Conservative Party cleared a couple of dark clouds from the global horizon.

The double dose of relief slugged safe-haven sovereign bonds and the Japanese yen, and led markets to scale back the chance of more interest rate cuts around the world.

“Global investors have been given two of the biggest gifts on their Christmas list and should be appreciative for a while at least,” said Sean Callow, a senior forex analyst at Westpac.

“Global equity indices such as MSCI World should set more record highs and sterling could push above $1.36.”

The pound hit its highest since mid-2018 as the run of UK vote results ruled out a shock win by the left-wing Labour opposition, which had been a worry for investors.

Prime Minster Boris Johnson looked set to gain a commanding majority in Britain’s Parliament giving him the power to deliver Brexit, though trade talks with the EU were set to drag on for months yet.

The pound was last up 2.3% at $1.3460 and reached levels on the euro not visited since mid-2016.

A wave of trade euphoria had already lifted Wall Street to record highs. Reuters reported the US has agreed to reduce some tariffs on Chinese goods and delay a tranche of tariffs as part of a phase one deal.

China also has agreed to make $50bn in agricultural purchases in 2020 as part of the deal, that person and another US source familiar with the talks said.

“If the US cuts the current tariffs to some extent as reported, that is not something markets have priced in, so we could see a further leg up,” said Norihiro Fujito, chief investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities in Tokyo.

“The Conservatives appear to be on course for a big win. We are now finally seeing a clear direction on Brexit after three years of deadlock.”

Less need for more cuts?

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei climbed 2.4% to a 14-month top, while Shanghai blue chips advanced 1.4%.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan jumped 1.5% to its highest since late April.

E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 rose 0.4% to another peak, and Euro Stoxx 50 futures gained 0.9%. FTSE futures eased 0.2%, perhaps because a Tory win had already been priced in.

Wall Street had celebrated the trade news with record highs. The Dow ended Thursday up 0.79%, while the S&P 500 gained 0.86% and the Nasdaq 0.73%.

That was bad news for bonds and yields on US 10-year Treasuries shot up to 1.91%, a rise of 12 basis points in just two sessions.

Interest rate futures slipped as investors priced in less chance of a rate cut from the Federal Reserve in 2020 — a shift seen across a range of developed nations including the UK.

Other safe harbours also took a beating, with the yen sliding across the board. The dollar firmed further to 109.60/¥ having risen 0.7% overnight.

The dollar fared less well elsewhere as the pound and the euro both benefited from the UK exit polls. The euro added 0.4% to $1.1176, while the dollar slipped to 96.792 on a basket of currencies.

The dollar also lost out to the Chinese yuan to hit an 18-week low as any trade truce would be seen as a boon for the export-heavy economy. The dollar was last at 6.9607 yuan having shed a steep 1.2% overnight.

The shift from safe havens left spot gold flat at $1,467.60/oz.

Oil prices rallied on hopes a trade deal would support global growth and thus demand.

US crude added 31c to $59.49 a barrel, while Brent crude rose 42c to $64.62.


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