Foreign exchange traders monitor screens in Tokyo, Japan. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/CARL COURT
Foreign exchange traders monitor screens in Tokyo, Japan. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/CARL COURT

Sydney — Asian shares took a breather on Monday while Treasury yields were at 10-month highs as “trillions” in new US fiscal stimulus plans were set to be unveiled this week, stoking a global reflation trade.

Investors were keeping a wary eye on US politics as pressure grew to impeach President Donald Trump, though signs were an actual trial could be some time away.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dipped 0.2%, having surged 5% last week to record highs. Japan’s Nikkei was on holiday after closing at a 30-year high on Friday.

South Korea went flat after an early jump, and Chinese blue chips firmed 0.7%.

“Asia has come through the second global crisis this millennium with its credentials,” said ANZ chief economist Richard Yetsenga.

“Asia’s growth is stronger, with for the most part better demographics and debt levels, than advanced economies.”

He noted a turnaround in fortunes between the semiconductor and energy sectors highlights Asia’s success, given the region produces about 45% of the world’s semiconductors.

“For the first time the global semiconductor sector’s market capitalisation has surpassed energy,” he said. “At the time of the last crisis, 12 years ago, the energy sector was more than five times larger.”

Futures for the S&P 500 slipped 0.6% from all-time peaks, after gaining 1.8% last week. Euro Stoxx 50 futures eased 0.1% and FTSE futures were flat.

Longer-term Treasury yields were at their highest since March after Friday’s weak jobs report only fanned speculation of more US fiscal stimulus now that the Democrats have control of the government.

President-elect Joe Biden is due to announce plans for “trillions” in new relief bills this week, much of which will be paid for by increased borrowing.

The Federal Reserve is sounding content to put the onus on fiscal policy with vice-chair Richard Clarida saying there would be no change soon to the $120bn of debt the Fed is buying monthly.

With the Fed reluctant to purchase more longer-dated bonds, 10-year Treasury yields jumped almost 20 basis points last week to 1.12%, the biggest weekly rise since June.

Treasury futures lost another three ticks early on Monday.

Mark Cabana at BofA warned stimulus could further pressure the dollar and cause Fed tapering to begin later this year.

“An early Fed taper creates upside risks to our year-end 1.5% 10-year Treasury target and supports our longer-term expectations for neutral rates moving towards 3%,” he said in a note to clients.

The poor payrolls report will heighten interest in US data on inflation, retail sales and consumer sentiment.

Earnings will also be in focus as JPMorgan, Citigroup and Wells Fargo are among the first companies to release fourth-quarter results on January 15.

The climb in yields in turn offered some support to the downtrodden dollar, which had edged up to 90.439 against a basket of currencies from last week’s low of 89.206.

The euro pulled back to $1.2170 from a recent top of $1.2349, breaking support about $1.2190. The dollar also firmed to ¥104.18 from a trough of ¥102.57 hit last week.

The sudden lift in bond yields undermined gold, which pays no interest, and the metal fell back 1.1% to $1,828 an ounce from its recent peak of $1,959.

Oil prices ran into profit taking after reaching their highest in nearly a year on Friday, gaining 8% on the week after Saudi Arabia pledged to cut output.

Brent crude futures dipped 48c to $55.51, while US crude futures lost 28c to $51.96 a barrel.

Reuters

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