European shares at five-year highs, Asian markets gain

Reuters
Pedestrians look at a stock quotation board displaying various stock prices outside a brokerage in Tokyo October 11, 2013.
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Pedestrians look at a stock quotation board displaying various stock prices outside a brokerage in Tokyo October 11, 2013. REUTERS/Yuya Shino

By Richard Hubbard

LONDON (Reuters) - Global shares hovered at five-year highs on Monday while the dollar edged up against the yen as investors looked ahead to a deluge of U.S. data for clues on when the Federal Reserve will begin scaling back its stimulus.

Many in the markets think the Fed will be wary of trimming its $85 billion-a-month bond-buying programme, which has supported riskier assets like shares, until the economic impact of a 16-day partial U.S. government shutdown becomes clearer.

"We're opening with a slightly positive tone ..., on the back of last week's decision to extend (U.S. fiscal) deadlines which is seen pushing back tapering from the Fed, a view which continues to support risky assets," said Richard McGuire, senior rate strategist at Rabobank.

European shares touched a fresh five-year high in early trade, though moves were limited ahead of the U.S. data, which begins with home sales numbers on Monday and includes the keenly watched non-farm payrolls report on Tuesday.

Expectations the Fed would have to delay lifted the broad S&P 500 index to a record closing high on Friday, marking its best weekly gain in three months as stronger-than-expected corporate earnings added to the positive tone.

Asian shares outside Japan followed on with a 0.2 percent rise to reach a five-month high on Monday. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 also touched a five-year peak, helped in part by data last week showing an improvement in economic growth in China - Australia's biggest export market.

MSCI's world equity index, which tracks shares in 45 countries, was holding near its own fresh five-year high reached last week.

RISK ON

In the currency market the greater prospect of a Fed delay weighed on the dollar against most currencies, as it would act to keep rates on U.S. debt lower than those offered by other major nations.

However, the U.S. currency rose against the safe-havens of the yen and the Swiss franc on expectations for a strong jobs report.

Against a basket of six major currencies, the dollar was steady at 79.70 not very far from Friday's low of 79.478, its weakest point since February.

The dollar edged up 0.4 percent against the Japanese yen to 98.01 yen, though below its near three-week high of 99.01 yen set last Thursday.

While some investors positioned for a strong non-farm payrolls reading on Tuesday others said an outcome more in line with expectations would see a limited response as the market was likely to wait for the effect of this month's partial government shutdown on the U.S. economy to become clear.

"It's going to take a while before we get what policymakers would consider a clean set of data. It may not come through until December or January," said Ian Stannard, head of European foreign exchange strategy for Morgan Stanley.

As a result, investors will not be expecting the Fed to take any decision on tapering until next year, which is likely to favour higher-yielding currencies like the Australian and Canadian dollars, Stannard said.

"We're going to see over the coming weeks quite a positive environment, more of a risk-on environment, starting to develop," he said.

With the dollar under pressure and the Fed expected to keep pumping in money to support the U.S. economy, commodities like gold were enjoying renewed demand.

Gold edged up to near one-and-a-half-week highs around $1,320 an ounce on Monday, having already gained 3.4 percent last week. Silver outperformed gold, rising 1.4 percent at $22.18 an ounce.

Brent crude oil saw more muted reaction, dipping under $110 a barrel as investors were waiting for the resumption of U.S. oil data along with the other economic numbers.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration will release weekly oil data for the week ended October 11 later on Monday. Its normal release schedule will resume after that, and oil data for last week will be released on Wednesday.

"The market's just in a wait-and-see mode ... The thing on most traders' minds is what sort of story is going to be told by the U.S. data now that it's going to be released again," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.

(Additional reporting by Marius Zaharia and Jessica Jaganathan; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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