Asian stocks hit three-month highs
Markets relieved that while Donald Trump aims to end special treatment for Hong Kong, he left trade deal intact
Sydney — Asian shares pushed to three-month highs on Monday as progress on opening up economies helped offset jitters over riots in US cities and unease over Washington’s power struggle with Beijing.
There was also relief that while President Donald Trump began the process of ending special US treatment for Hong Kong to punish China, he left their trade deal intact.
“With specific and verifiable measures against China appearing to be weak, markets may draw hollow consolation that the US is treading carefully,” said analysts at Mizuho in a note.
After a cautious start Asian markets were led higher by China on signs parts of the domestic economy were picking up. Hong Kong managed to rally 3.6%, while Chinese blue chips put on 2.2%.
An official business survey from China showed its factory activity grew at a slower pace in May but momentum in the services and construction sectors quickened.
A private survey showed a return to growth in May, though exports remained depressed.
That helped lift MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan 2.1% to its highest since early March. Japan’s Nikkei added 1.1% to also reach a three-month peak.
E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 recovered to be up 0.1%, having been down 1% in early trade. Euro Stoxx 50 futures firmed 1.4% and FTSE futures 1.2%.
The resilience was notable given major US cities were cleaning up streets strewn with broken glass and burnt-out cars as curfews failed to stop confrontations between activists and law enforcement.
The turmoil was a fresh setback for the economy that was only just emerging from a downturn akin to the Great Depression. After poor data on spending and trade out on Friday, the Atlanta Federal Reserve estimated economic output could drop a staggering 51% annualised in the second quarter.
The May jobs report due out on Friday is forecast to show the unemployment rate surged to 19.8%, smashing April’s record 14.7%. Payrolls are expected to drop by 7.4-million, on top of the 20.5-million jobs lost the previous month.
“Current unemployment numbers go far beyond what has been experienced in any post-war recession,” wrote Barclays economist Christian Keller in a note.
“To the extent that some sectors may never return to pre-pandemic business-as-usual, labour faces a substantial challenge to reallocate workers,” he added. “Such a process could be a matter of years rather than months or quarters and in the meantime it would weigh on consumer demand.”
Bond investors suspect economies will need huge amounts of central bank support long after they reopen and that is keeping yields super low even as governments borrow much more.
Yields on US 10-year notes were trading steady at 0.66% having recovered from a blip up to 0.74% last month when the market absorbed a tidal wave of new issuance.
The decline in US yields has been a burden for the dollar, but the world’s reserve currency also tends to benefit from safe-haven status to limit the losses.
Early Monday, the dollar was 0.2% softer on a basket of peers at 98.018 having touched an 11-week low of 97.944 on Friday. It was steadier on the yen at 107.70.
Much of the dollar’s recent decline has come against the euro, which has been broadly boosted by plans for an EU stimulus package. The single currency was last up at $1.1131, after climbing 1.8% last week.
Markets are awaiting a meeting of the European Central Bank on Thursday where it is widely expected to raise its asset buying by about €500bn to €1.25-trillion.
In commodity markets, gold added 0.6% to $1,1737 an ounce.
Oil prices initially eased on worries about US demand, but found support from reports Russia had no objection to the next meeting of Opec and its allies being brought forward to June 4 from the following week.
Brent crude futures were off 7c at $37.77 a barrel, while US crude was flat at $35.49.
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