Asian shares at seven-month high, while safe havens lose ground
Equities enjoy support from signs of goodwill between China and the US, as the countries prepare to sign a truce in their trade war
Singapore — Asian shares hit a seven-month high, China’s yuan jumped and safe-harbour assets slipped on Tuesday, amid signs of goodwill between China and the US, as the world’s two biggest economies prepared to sign a truce in their trade war.
The US treasury department on Monday said China should no longer be designated a currency manipulator — a label it applied as the yuan dropped in August.
China, meanwhile, allowed the tightly managed currency to climb to its highest point since July, after fixing the yuan’s trading-band midpoint at its firmest in more than five months.
The yuan sat 0.4% firmer at 6.8677 to the dollar by midsession.
The moves come as a Chinese delegation arrived in Washington ahead of Wednesday’s signing of the phase 1 trade agreement, seen as calming a dispute that has upended the world economy.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan hit its highest since June in morning trade, driving world stocks to a record high.
Japan’s Nikkei added 0.7% and hit its highest point in a month. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose to its highest since May and Shanghai blue chips scaled heights not touched since January 2018, though both later pared gains.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.7% to a record intraday high. Gold fell and the safe-harbour Japanese yen dropped to a seven-month low.
“There have been a number of false starts,” said Vishnu Varathan, head of economics at Mizuho Bank in Singapore.
“The fact that this is really coming to the moment when the rubber hits the road is the most tangible evidence of traction in starting to resolve issues, that’s what's driving optimism.”
Chinese economic data showing rising exports and imports in December also put a floor under gains.
Overnight Wall Street logged record closing highs, helped by sharp rises in technology stocks as investors bet firms such as Facebook, Microsoft and Apple might have the most to gain from revived global growth.
The S&P 500 rose 0.7% to a record closing high, while the Nasdaq Composite added 1% and also closed at a record peak. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.29%.
With the text of the China-US deal yet to be finalised, some fretted the gains could leave stocks exposed should anything go awry, with modest volumes in equity markets hinting at caution.
“The market appears to be fully pricing a signed agreement,” said CMC Markets’ chief strategist in Sydney, Michael McCarthy.
“It’s buy the rumour, sell the fact.... Even a delay could see an extremely negative reaction,” he said.
US trade representative Robert Lighthizer told Fox Business late on Monday that the Chinese translation of the deal’s text was almost done.
“We’re going to make it public on Wednesday before the signing,” he said.
Yen and gold slip
In tandem with the rally, safe-harbour assets slid lower on Tuesday. Gold extended Monday’s fall to trade 0.6% weaker at $1538.76/oz.
Oil nursed losses and yields on benchmark US treasuries rose as prices fell. Brent Crude was steady around $64.37 a barrel. Ten-year treasury note yields rose to 1.8599% compared with the US close of 1.848%.
In currency markets, the yen weakened past the ¥110 to the dollar mark, while the yuan’s strength helped lift trade-exposed currencies across Asia.
Besides the trade deal, investors are also looking to US inflation data due later on Tuesday and the beginning of the fourth-quarter US company results season.
Big banks JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo are due to report earnings before the market opens on Tuesday.
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