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 — Asian shares drifted off on Monday as relief over the benign US jobs report was chilled by caution before key inflation data later this week, while a coronavirus outbreak in Taiwan took an increasing toll on hard-pressed chipmakers.

Investors were wary of how shares of major tech firms would react to the G7’s agreement on a minimum global corporate tax rate of at least 15%, though getting the approval of the whole G20 could be a tall order.

So far, the reaction was muted with Nasdaq and S&P 500 futures down 0.1%. Euro Stoxx 50 futures and FTSE futures eased 0.1%.

Also of interest will be the tussle over US President Joe Biden’s proposed $1.7-trillion infrastructure plan with the White House rejecting the latest Republican offer.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan slipped 0.2% and risked a fourth session of losses. Japan’s Nikkei edged up 0.2% and touched its highest in almost a month.

Taiwan stocks lost 0.6% as a spike in Covid-19 cases hit three tech companies in northern Taiwan, including chip packager King Yuan Electronics.

Chinese blue chips were off 0.5%, as data showed exports and imports up sharply in May amid a global revival in trade and strong demand for commodities.

China’s imports grew at their fastest pace in 10 years, though export growth missed expectations, customs data showed.

While the 559,000 rise in May US jobs missed forecasts it was still a relief after April’s shockingly weak report. The jobless rate at 5.8% showed there is a long way to go to reach the Federal Reserve’s goal of full employment.

“The data was perfect for a goldilocks-type outlook for risk: not too hot to bring in fears of a faster Fed taper, and not too cold to worry about the outlook for the recovery,” said NatWest Markets strategist John Briggs.

“This caused a weaker USD, better stocks, reinforced the earlier bid in commodities, and boosted emerging markets.”

Attention will now turn to the US consumer price report on Thursday in which the risk is of another high number, though the Fed still argues the spike is transitory.

Briggs suspected Fed officials might open the door to talking about tapering at the June policy meeting, with the start coming in early 2022 and a rate hike not until 2024.

The European Central Bank holds its policy meeting on Thursday and is widely expected to maintain its stimulus measures with tapering a distant prospect.

Yields on US 10-year notes were a fraction higher at 1.57%, after diving seven basis points on Friday and back to the bottom of the trading range of the last three months.

That drop, combined with an improvement in risk appetite, put the dollar on the defensive. It was last at 90.173 against a basket of currencies, having slipped from a top of 90.629 on Friday.

The euro was holding at $1.2167, after bouncing from a three-week trough of $1.2102 on Friday, while the dollar was back at ¥109.52 from a peak of 110.33.

The pullback in the dollar helped gold steady at $1,885 an ounce, up from a low of $1,855 on Friday.

Oil prices ran into profit-taking after Brent topped $72 a barrel for the first time since 2019 last week as Opec+ supply discipline and recovering demand countered concerns about a patchy global Covid-19 vaccination rollout.

Brent slipped 31c to $71.58 a barrel, while US crude eased 24c to $69.38.

Reuters

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