Asian stocks set to take cue from Wall Street rally but China worries grow

ASIAN stocks were set to track US gains on Wednesday as falling bond yields eased concerns about surging inflation although focus will shift to Chinese markets amid worries about policy tightening in the world’s second-largest economy.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.47% in early trading. Japan’s Nikkei 225 futures added 0.07% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index futures rose 1.17%.

E-mini futures for the S&P 500 rose 0.10%.

“It’s looking like a pretty positive open by virtue of Wall Street’s solid lead,” said IG Markets analyst Kyle Rodda. “The real interest will be when China’s cash markets open – whether we could see a new direction form off the basis of stress about financial stability in China.”

On Tuesday, China’s benchmark Shanghai Composite index stood on the precipice of a correction as investors wrestled with the prospect of tighter policy and a slowing economic recovery.

With eyes on the US$120 bill auctions of 3-, 10- and 30-year Treasuries this week, US Treasury yields fell after a weak seven-year note sale that prompted a spike in yields two weeks ago was followed by another soft auction last week.

The yield on benchmark 10-year notes fell to 1.5281% from 1.544% late on Tuesday.

Tuesday’s auction of US$58 billion in US three-year notes was well received with the next tests of investor appetite for government debt in the form of 10-year and 30-year auctions later this week.

On Wall Street, each of the major averages closed higher, led by a gain of nearly 4% in the Nasdaq, giving the tech-heavy index its best day since Nov 4.

The index has been highly susceptible to climbing rates, and Monday’s retreat left it down more than 10% from its Feb 12 close, confirming what is widely considered to be a correction.

“Today the 10-year is down a bit, and that takes pressure off valuations, so tech is performing well. The market is just about getting comfortable at this level of rates,” said Kristina Hooper, chief global market strategist at Invesco in New York.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, after earlier topping 32,150, rose 0.1% to end at 31,832.74, the S&P 500 gained 1.42% and the Nasdaq Composite added 3.69%.

In Europe, stocks closed higher after extending gains from their best session in four months a day earlier as a rise in shares of oil and utility companies helped counter losses in miners.

The speedier rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in some countries and the planned US$1.9 tril US stimulus package helped underpin a brighter global economic outlook, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said, as it raised its 2021 growth forecast.

In foreign exchange markets, the US dollar index backed away from a three-and-a-half-month high, allowing riskier currencies to move higher.

The greenback index fell 0.415%, with the euro down 0.01% to $1.1897.

The Australian dollar rose 0.06% versus the greenback at US$0.772. The offshore Chinese yuan strengthened versus the greenback at 6.5158 per US dollar.

Oil prices backed off early highs in choppy trading, with Brent dipping back to the US$68 mark as investors weighed easing concerns over a supply disruption in Saudi Arabia with the likelihood of limited supply from OPEC+ output limits.

US crude futures settled at US$64.01 per barrel, down US$1.04 or 1.60%. Brent crude futures settled at US$67.52 per barrel, down 72 cents or 1.06%.

Gold surged more than 2% on the retreat in US Treasury yields and the weaker US dollar, staging a strong recovery from the nine-month low it hit in the previous session.

US gold futures settled up 2.3% at US$1,716.90. – March 10, 2021

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