Pedestrians walk past a public screen displaying the Shenzhen Stock Exchange and the Hang Seng Index figures in Shanghai, China. Picture: BLOOMBERG/QILAI SHEN
Pedestrians walk past a public screen displaying the Shenzhen Stock Exchange and the Hang Seng Index figures in Shanghai, China. Picture: BLOOMBERG/QILAI SHEN

Sydney — Asian shares edged higher on Monday as a disappointing US payrolls report promised to keep policy there superloose for longer, but also clouded the outlook for global growth and inflation.

A holiday in the US made for thin conditions and kept MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan to a small gain of 0.2%, though that was the highest since late July.

Japan’s Nikkei added 1.7%, extending a rally on hopes a new prime minister there would bring added fiscal stimulus.

Chinese blue chips gained 1.3% amid speculation Beijing would also be adding stimulus through fiscal and monetary policy.

Nasdaq futures were barely changed, while S&P 500 futures dipped 0.1%. Euro Stoxx 50 futures and FTSE futures were little moved.

Investors were still assessing the fallout from the September payrolls report, which showed a much smaller increase in jobs than expected, but also a pick-up in wages.

The latter was enough to nudge longer-dated Treasury yields higher and steepen the yield curve, even as markets speculated the Federal Reserve might start tapering later.

“Employment decelerated sharply in August, with little indication of a pickup in labour supply,” said Barclays economist Jonathan Millar. “This puts the Fed in a quandary as it balances risks of a sharp demand slowdown against those of tight supply and inflation.

“We still expect the Fed to signal tapering in September, but now expect it to begin in December not November. QE will likely end by the middle of 2022.”

The rise in US 10-year yields to 1.32% limited some of the pressure on the dollar from the poor payrolls print, though its index still touched a one-month low before steadying at 92.128.

The dollar remained sidelined on the yen at 109.76, while the euro was firm at $1.1881 after hitting a five-week top of $1.1908 on Friday.

The European Central Bank holds its policy meeting this week and a number of policy hawks have been calling for a step back in their huge asset buying programme, though president Christine Lagarde has sounded more dovish.

“We expect the ECB to announce a reduced pace of Q4 PEPP [pandemic emergency purchase programme] at its September meeting on the back of easier financial conditions,” said analysts at TD Securities.

“All other policy levers are likely to be left on hold, with inflation forecasts revised sharply up this year and next. Communication risks are high, and Lagarde will want to avoid sounding overly hawkish, instead emphasising ‘persistence’.”

The prospect of a later start to Fed tapering was positive for non-yielding gold, which stood at $1,827 an ounce, having reached its highest since mid-June at $1,833.80.

Oil investors were more concerned the poor pace of US hiring would be a drag on demand and prices slipped.

Brent fell 82c to $71.79 a barrel, while US crude lost 73c to $68.56.

Reuters

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