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Singapore — Asian stocks rose to their highest in more than a year on Monday on renewed bets that the Federal Reserve would most likely ease rates in 2024, while the yen weakened after a strong surge last week from Tokyo’s suspected currency intervention.

Trading was thin in Asia with Japan out for a holiday, though markets in mainland China got off to an upbeat start after returning from an extended break.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan peaked at their highest since February 2023 and last gained 0.53%, while China’s blue-chip index jumped 1.5%.

Chinese shares offshore posted strong gains last week while mainland markets were closed from Wednesday to Friday for the Labour Day holiday.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 4.7% last week and on Friday clocked its longest daily winning streak since 2018. It was last down 0.1%.

The Nasdaq-listed Golden Dragon China index jumped 5.5% last week.

Similarly, in currency markets, the onshore yuan had a catch-up rally and surged to a six-week high of 7.2009 to the dollar, while its offshore counterpart last stood at 7.2162 to the dollar, having strengthened more than 1% last week.

The rebound in Chinese markets has come on the back of the country’s Politburo meeting, where policymakers said they will step up support for the economy with prudent monetary and proactive fiscal policies.

“While the overall policy stance is in line with those set at the National People’s Congress in March, there is a more supportive policy tone on fiscal policy,” said Louisa Fok, China equity strategist at Bank of Singapore. “Looking ahead, policy implementation would be a key catalyst to watch in the coming months. In addition, earnings growth estimates revision momentum would be another key indicator to watch from a corporate fundamental perspective.”

A long-awaited recovery in the Chinese economy is also gaining momentum, with data on Monday showing the country’s services activity expansion slowed a touch amid rising costs, but growth in new orders accelerated and business sentiment rose solidly.

The broader market rally across Asia meanwhile got an additional boost from Friday's US nonfarm payrolls report, which came in cooler than expected.

That reinforced bets that Fed rate cuts would most likely come this year, after chair Jerome Powell also maintained the central bank's easing bias last week.

“[The] data point to a jobs market that is still tight, but not nearly as hot as it was a year or two ago,” said economists at Wells Fargo. “This should support a further slowdown in inflation as the year progresses, even if improvement proceeds only gradually.”

Eurostoxx 50 futures gained 0.35%, while Nasdaq futures were little changed. S&P 500 futures added 0.07%.

The dollar held broadly steady on Monday, leaving the euro away from a one-month high to last trade at $1.07635, while sterling similarly edged lower and last bought $1.2545.

Intervention watch

Elsewhere, traders also remained on alert for any further volatility in the yen, after last week’s bouts of suspected intervention from Japanese authorities to stop a sharp slide in the currency.

Tokyo is suspected to have spent more than ¥9-trillion yen ($59bn) to support its currency last week, as suggested by data from Bank of Japan, taking the yen from a 34-year low of ¥160.245 to the dollar to a roughly one-month high of ¥151.86 over the span of a week.

The yen gave back some of those gains on Monday and was last 0.6% lower at ¥153.935 to the dollar, after briefly weakening past the ¥154 level earlier in the session.

Economic leaders of South Korea, Japan and China had on Friday said heightened foreign exchange market volatility was one of the risk factors that could affect regional growth prospects in the near term.

In commodities, Brent futures rose 0.33% to $83.23 a barrel, while US crude futures similarly edged 0.36% higher to $78.39 a barrel.

Gold tacked on 0.4% to $2,311.47/oz.


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