Record high on Wall Street lifts Asian spirits

Reuters
An office worker walks past the board of the Australian Securities Exchange building displaying its logo in central Sydney
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An office worker walks past the board of the Australian Securities Exchange building displaying its logo in central Sydney April 5, 2013. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz

By Ian Chua

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Asian stocks got off to an encouraging start on Monday after strong results from the likes of Microsoft drove Wall Street to another record closing high, while the safe-haven yen slipped in thin early trade.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.3 percent, steadying after last week's 1.1 percent slide -- the biggest in two months -- on concerns that China may tighten policy to keep prices under control.

Australia's stock market climbed 0.8 percent in early deals, with major banks including ANZ (ANZ.AX) and NAB (NAB.AX) among gainers ahead of their results this week.

"Trade today should see risk firmly switched on," said Evan Lucas, market strategist at IG in Melbourne. "The banks should continue to rally into their results and the mining space should shift higher on optimism over the official Chinese PMI data on Friday."

The U.S. S&P 500 index (.SPX) rose 0.4 percent to an all-time closing high on Friday. Upbeat earnings news from Microsoft (MSFT.O) and Amazon.com (AMZN.O) helped spark a rally in U.S. technology shares and should also help lift their Asian peers.

But traders do not expect fireworks in Asia, with some investors keeping a wary eye on China as Beijing attempts to cool property prices and inflation.

In the currency markets, the yen was under a bit of pressure. The dollar rose 0.1 percent to 97.51 yen, while the euro gained 0.2 percent to 134.72 yen.

Against the dollar, the euro was a tad firmer at $1.3810 and within striking distance of Friday's $1.3833, a high not seen since November 2011.

The dollar has been under broad pressure in the past few weeks on growing expectations the Federal Reserve will maintain its massive stimulus program into next year.

The Fed's policy-setting arm meets on Oct 29-30 and is expected to hold off any move to scale down its $85 billion monthly bond-buying program.

Analysts reckon policymakers want to see the impact of the U.S. budget battle that took the country to the brink of a debt default and caused a partial government shutdown.

"The FOMC should be a non-event... the Washington debates cloud the growth outlook, so forget about tapering," analysts at JPMorgan wrote in a client note, adding the April 2014 meeting looked like the soonest start for any tapering.

There is no major data out of Asia on Monday, leaving the focus on offshore events. Several markets in Asia are closed for public holidays on Monday, including New Zealand and the Philippines.

(Editing by John Mair)

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