Asian shares inch up on policy stimulus hopes

After sinking last week, Asian shares rose on hopes that new measures would address the effects of the virus outbreak.

Central banks around the world are expected to lower interest rates to stabilise financial markets as the coronavirus outbreak disrupts business activity [File: China Daily via Reuters]
Central banks around the world are expected to lower interest rates to stabilise financial markets as the coronavirus outbreak disrupts business activity [File: China Daily via Reuters]

Asian shares steadied from early losses on Monday as investors placed their hopes on a coordinated global monetary policy response to weather the damaging economic effects of the coronavirus epidemic.

Pandemic fears pushed financial markets off a precipice last week, wiping more than $5 trillion from the value of global shares as stocks cratered to their steepest slump in more than 10 years.

The sheer scale of losses prompted markets to anticipate policy responses from the United States Federal Reserve to the Bank of Japan and the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBC). 

Futures now imply a half percentage-point cut by the Federal Reserve in March while Australian markets are pricing in a quarter-point cut at the RBA’s Tuesday meeting.

Also helping calm market nerves, Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said on Monday the central bank would take necessary steps to stabilise financial markets.

In equities, Chinese shares opened higher with the blue-chip index up 1.5 percent.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan advanced 0.4 percent, turning around from a loss of about 0.3 percent earlier in the day.

E-mini futures for the S&P500, which were down more than by 1 percent at one point, were last up by 0.3 percent while Japan’s Nikkei, which opened by 1.3 percent lower at a six-month trough, climbed by 0.4 percent.

Australia’s S&P ASX/200, which had tumbled by 3 percent, was last off at 1.8 percent.

The yield on benchmark US 10-Year Treasuries hit a fresh record low of 1.0750 percent.

Despite some stability in the market, analysts still expect volatility to persist.

“Any signs that new cases are beginning to taper could be seen as a positive catalyst for the market especially given that some of the market complacency has reduced with equity valuations much lower vs few weeks ago,” Nomura analysts wrote in a note.

“In the very near term until [first quarter] reporting results, we expect Asian equities may remain quite volatile,” they added.

“However, on a medium-term basis we believe the risk-reward is now getting favourable, assuming the virus does not take the form of a virulent global pandemic.”

Leaders in Europe, the Middle East and the Americas rolled out bans on big gatherings and stricter travel restrictions over the weekend as cases of the new coronavirus spread.

The epidemic, which began in China, has killed almost 3,000 people worldwide as authorities race to contain infections in Iran, Italy, South Korea and the United States.

Both official and private surveys, released on Saturday and Monday respectively, showed China’s factory activity collapsing to its worst levels on record as the virus crippled broad areas of the economy.

“It is now highly probable that the coronavirus will spread globally,” Citi analysts said in a note.

“Financial markets may over-react until they have visibility on the actual impact.”

Investor panic last week sent bonds soaring and stocks plunging. The S&P 500 index fell by 11.5 percent, only its fifth double-digit weekly percentage drop since 1940.

On Monday, oil extended losses before steadying on expectations OPEC may cut production.

Brent crude last traded at $50.41 per barrel and US crude at $45.30 per barrel.

In currencies, investors sought shelter in the Japanese yen, which jumped to a 20-week high on the US dollar in tandem with the significant shift in money markets to price US rate cuts.

All of this leaves just about every largest asset class on edge and few analysts sounding optimistic.

“So it was right not to ‘buy the dip’,” said Michael Every, Rabobank’s senior strategist for the Asia-Pacific.

The yen was last up by 0.1 percent at 107.98.

The Aussie huddled near an 11-year low at $0.6527, while the New Zealand dollar slipped by 0.1 percent to $6238.

The euro was up by 0.3 percent at $1.1054.

That left the US dollar index a shade weaker at 97.911.

A further set of manufacturing surveys from around the world due later on Monday will provide investors with more detail on the virus’ effects on the global economy.

Later in the week, central bank meetings in Australia, on Tuesday, and Canada, on Wednesday, will be closely watched.

Source : Reuters

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