A man wearing a protective face mask talks on his cellphone in front of a screen showing the Nikkei index outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan. Picture: REUTERS/ATHIT PERAWONGMETHA
A man wearing a protective face mask talks on his cellphone in front of a screen showing the Nikkei index outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan. Picture: REUTERS/ATHIT PERAWONGMETHA

Sydney/New York — A gauge of Asian shares climbed to three-week highs on Wednesday as investors eyed the upcoming earnings season for further signs of a global economic recovery, while the dollar slipped to a two-week low.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.3% for its second straight day of gains. It went as high as 697.01, a level last seen on March 18.

Japan’s Nikkei was a shade higher while Australian shares rose 0.6% and South Korea’s Kospi added 0.5%.

Chinese shares, however, were weaker with the blue-chip CSI300 index down about 1% after a strong rally last week.

“The US economy is experiencing the first effects of a powerful double-dose vaccine of broad inoculation and fiscal stimulus,” said David Kelly, chief global market strategist at JP Morgan Asset Management.

“The reality is that forecasts remain very uncertain ... [but] early signs show the recovery is accelerating, suggesting a faster return to ‘normal’ than many had dared to hope a few months ago,” Kelly added.

Overnight, the three major Wall Street indices closed lower, a day after the S&P 500 and the Dow rose to record levels driven by optimism from a greater-than-expected jobs report last Friday and data showing a dramatic rebound in the US services industry on Monday.

The Dow fell 0.3%, the S&P 500 lost 0.10% and the Nasdaq Composite eased 0.05%.

Investors also weighed the latest US job openings report, which showed that vacancies rose to a two-year high in February while hiring had its biggest gain in nine months amid increased Covid-19 vaccinations and additional government stimulus.

Moreover, the IMF raised its global growth forecast to 6% in 2021 from 5.5%, reflecting a rapidly brightening outlook for the US economy.

With the upcoming earnings season expected to show S&P profit growth of 24.2% from a year earlier, according to Refinitiv data, investors will be watching to see whether corporate results further confirm recent positive economic data.

Elsewhere, the five-year US Treasury yields dropped sharply to 0.874%, weighing on the US dollar. The five-year Treasury yield is seen as a major barometer of how much faith investors have in the Federal Reserve’s pledge that it does not expect to raise interest rates until 2024.

The dollar slipped to a two-week low against a basket of world currencies, with traders taking advantage of its strong March performance as dropping Treasury yields pressured the greenback.

The dollar index fell to 92.258.

The euro was flat at $1.1874, sterling was slightly higher at $1.3835, the Australian dollar rose to $0.7668, while the Japanese yen was higher at 109.62.

Crude oil prices rose on the prospects for stronger global economic growth amid increased Covid-19 vaccinations and a report showing that crude inventories in the US, the world’s biggest fuel consumer, fell in the week-ended April 2.

Brent crude futures for June rose by 34c, or 0.5%, to $63.08 a barrel while US crude for May was up 32c, or 0.5%, to $59.65.

Spot gold was off a touch at $1,737.6/oz.

Reuters

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