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

Singapore — Asian stock markets rose on Tuesday, while gold flirted near five-month highs ahead of European and US data this week that is likely to offer clues on the health of the global economy.

The world’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic remains patchy with exports reviving but broader economic activity still dampened by new measures to contain fresh outbreaks

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged up 0.4%, as Taiwan and South Korea indices notched gains. Japan, Australia and Chinese markets retreated.

South Korea stocks were supported by data showing the country’s exports logged their sharpest expansion in 32 years in May. But in Japan, official data showed companies cut spending on plant and equipment for the fourth straight quarter in January-March.

The MSCI Asia index rose to the highest in a month, taking total gains made so far this year to nearly 7%. World equities have risen for a fourth straight month as ample liquidity supported risk-taking despite worries of higher inflation.

China’s factory activity expanded at the fastest pace this year in May as domestic and export demand picked up, a business survey showed.

While asset markets have rallied last month, policymakers are focused on tackling inflation at a time when the underlying structural economy has been struggling to gain traction. Markets are also awaiting signals from the Federal Reserve on when it will start tapering its bond-buying programme.

“The fixation of the markets now is on inflation and rightly so because of so much of quantitative easing and supply chain disruptions,” said Hou Wey Fook, chief investment officer at DBS Bank. “It seems to be that tapering should be on the cards. But it will be mild, it will be slow and will be well communicated.”

This week’s main event is the US payrolls on Friday with median forecasts at 650,000, but the outcome is uncertain after April’s unexpectedly weak 266,000 gain.

Though US inflation data last week was above estimates, another big miss on the jobs front would delay prospects for any wind down of stimulus, analysts say.

US stock futures were little changed after a holiday on Monday and after European share markets ending below record highs.

The dollar languished near multi-month lows versus peers as traders pondered the prospects for early policy normalisation by the Fed ahead of the jobs report.

“The world economy is recovering, and that is going to be bad for the US dollar because it’s a countercyclical currency,” said Commonwealth Bank of Australia strategist Joseph Capurso. “The US dollar has been pretty heavy in the last few weeks, and I think it keeps trending lower.”

Australia’s dollar rose as high as $0.77605, strengthening for the second straight session ahead of a central bank announcement at 4.30am GMT though economists predict no change to monetary policy.

The offshore Chinese yuan was steady at 6.3710 a dollar, retreating from a three-year high of 6.3526 a dollar reached on Monday, after the monetary authority tightened banks’ foreign exchange requirements to stem the currency’s rise.

Concerns about global inflation have supported gold, with prices for the gold rising 8% this month, vaulting comfortably above $1,900. On Tuesday, gold prices traded near a five-month high scaled last week.

Oil prices rose ahead of an Opec meeting and on optimism that fuel demand will grow in the months ahead with the summer driving season starting in the US, the world’s top oil consumer.

Brent crude futures for August added 1.3% to $70.2 a barrel, while US crude rose 1.9% to $67.6.

There was little action in cryptocurrencies, with bitcoin steady around $36,642.



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