Asian stocks rally before U.S. jobs test; yen slides

Fri Jan 06 2023
Mark Cooper (3110 articles)
Asian stocks rally before U.S. jobs test; yen slides

Asian equities gained on Friday while the dollar pushed to a fresh one-month high as investors braced for crucial U.S. jobs data later in the day that should provide clues on how aggressive the Federal Reserve will be in tightening policy.

The yen continued its retreat from a seven-month peak for a fourth straight day, even as the yield on the 10-year Japanese government bond reached the central bank’s new policy ceiling of 0.5%, a level not seen since July 2015.

Japan’s Nikkei (.N225) ended the day 0.59% higher, while South Korea’s KOSPI (.KS11) jumped 1.01%. Australia’s stock benchmark (.AXJO) added 0.65%.

Mainland Chinese blue chips (.CSI300) gained 0.18%, logging advances every day this week as China abruptly dropped its ultra-strict COVID-19 curbs on travel and activity.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng (.HSI), though, slipped 0.43%, retreating from Thursday’s six-month peak.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares excluding Japan (.MIAPJ0000PUS) rose as much as 0.94% at one point to reach a 4-1/2-month high.

“While the re-opening is likely to be a bumpy affair amid surging COVID-19 cases and increasingly stretched health systems, our economists expect growth momentum across Asia to gather steam, led by China,” HSBC strategists wrote in a note to clients.

Prospects for higher Chinese growth also lifted crude oil. Brent crude futures were 94 cents, or 1.2%, higher at $79.63 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures were up 91 cents, or 1.2%, at $74.58 a barrel.

Futures for Germany’s DAX pointed to a 0.53% rise at the restart, while Britain’s FTSE futures signaled a 0.2% advance.

U.S. E-mini stock futures ticked up 0.34%, pointing to a small bounce after the 1.16% overnight slide for the S&P 500 (.SPX).

Wall Street sold off amid worries that a robust jobs market would keep the Fed raising rates for longer, after data released on Thursday showed a bigger than expected rise in private payrolls and a drop in jobless claims.

“There is concern that the labour market isn’t showing any signs of cooling,” putting financial markets “very much on edge”, said Tony Sycamore, a market analyst at IG.

“But the important one is going to be tonight, and I don’t think the bogey man is going to be in the cupboard with tonight’s number.”

According to a Reuters survey of economists, non-farm payrolls are forecast to show on Friday that 200,000 jobs were created in December, easing from November’s 263,000 pace.

U.S. two-year Treasury yields spiked to a more than two-month high of 4.497% overnight but eased to 4.4561% in Tokyo. The 10-year yield , which rose as high as 3.784% in New York, dropped to 3.7122%.

The U.S. currency, though, pushed higher versus major peers on Friday, mainly the Japanese yen.

The dollar index , which measures the greenback against six counterparts including the yen and euro, gained 0.8% to 105.20, and earlier touched 105.31 for the first time in a month.

The dollar index is up 1.64% this week, putting it on course to snap a streak of three losing weeks. It is shaping up for the best performance since late September.

The greenback added 0.46% to 134.03 yen , and touched a fresh one-week high of 134.37. It’s set to gain 2.28% this week, its best showing since mid-October.

Japan’s currency had rallied to the strongest level in seven months at 129.51 per dollar on Tuesday, capping its surge since the BOJ unexpectedly widened the band it allows for the 10-year JGB yield to 50 basis points either side of zero.

The benchmark 10-year yield reached that limit at 0.5% on Friday.

“The 10-year yield reaching 0.5% is no surprise considering the market is now expecting another policy change,” said Naka Matsuzawa, a market strategist at Nomura.

The BOJ could widen the band around zero for the 10-year JGB yield to 75bps within this year, he said, although an exit of negative interest rate policy for the overnight call rate isn’t likely in 2023 because it would require officials to acknowledge the 2% inflation target has been reached.

The euro was little changed at $1.0519, after earlier easing to $1.0511, a level last seen on Dec. 12.

Mark Cooper

Mark Cooper

Mark Cooper is Political / Stock Market Correspondent. He has been covering Global Stock Markets for more than 6 years.