Asian shares edge up as US stock futures make gains

A pedestrian wearing a protective mask is reflected in an electronic stock board outside a securities firm in Tokyo, Japan [File: Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg]

Asian shares edged cautiously higher on Monday as United States stock futures made early gains, though investors were wary of bearish surprises in a batch of Chinese economic data due out later.

Annual growth in retail sales, industrial output and urban investment are all expected to slow further in October, partly due to pandemic restrictions and strains in the housing market.

Economists at Commonwealth Bank of Australia argued there was a chance the People’s Bank of China would cut bank reserve requirements (RRR) this week to support activity.

“We estimate a 50 basis point cut to the RRR can release CNY 1 billion of liquidity,” they said in a note. “In our view, mild easing measures can help meet funding requirements for property developers and offset downside risks to the economy.”

Elsewhere, the UN climate conference in Scotland did manage to hammer out a deal on emissions, but only by watering down a commitment to phase out coal.

American finance company MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.1 percent after popping higher late last week.

Japan’s Nikkei gained 0.7 percent as data showing economic activity shrank by more than expected in the third quarter only reinforced the case for aggressive fiscal stimulus.

Wall Street eased last week to break a string of gains, though the major indices were just a shade off all-time highs. S&P 500 futures firmed 0.2 percent in early trade on Monday, while Nasdaq futures added 0.3 percent.

Asian marketsThe release of retail sales figures in the US on Tuesday will be a crucial marker of consumer sentiment [FILE: Andy Wong/AP] (AP Photo)

A key release to watch this week will be US retail sales on Tuesday for any effect from the drop in consumer sentiment to a 10-year low reported for November, as people fretted over higher prices, particularly for petrol.

There are also doubts about whether firms have the pricing power to maintain margins in the face of rising costs.

Analysts at Bank of America (BofA) noted 75 percent of US companies had beaten earnings estimates in the latest reporting season, but forecasts for the fourth quarter were only flat, breaking more than a year of rising expectations.

The grim survey helped Treasuries steady a little, but yields were still up a hefty 11 basis points for the week as the market priced in a greater risk of an early tightening by the Federal Reserve.

BofA economist Ethan Harris suspects the market still has not priced in enough given the high starting level of inflation means rates need to rise more to reach neutral.

“If inflation stays high and comes in above the planned overshoot, the Fed will need to become much more hawkish and either accept a market correction or deliberately induce such a correction,” warns Harris.

Higher US yields have combined with general risk aversion to benefit the dollar, which boasted its best week in almost three months. Against a basket of currencies, the dollar was firm at 95.120 and just off its highest since July 2020.

It was holding at 113.99 yen, preparing for another challenge of the October top at 114.69.

COVID factor

The euro looked vulnerable at $1.1442, having broken decisively lower last week.

“Covid infection curves moving in the wrong direction are part of the reason, while renewed restrictions are being imposed in Austria and the Netherlands,” said Ray Attrill, head of FX strategy at National Australia Bank.

“The implications or both growth and ECB policy are not being lost on currency markets.”

European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde will appear before European Parliament later on Monday.

Inflation concerns kept gold in demand at $1,865 an ounce after notching its biggest weekly gain since May.

Oil prices had a tougher week, hit by a strengthening dollar and speculation that President Joe Biden’s administration might release oil from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Early Monday, Brent had bounced 21 cents to $82.38 a barrel, while US crude added 28 cents to $81.07.

Source: Reuters