Asian shares hit 2-month high on solid US job growth

By: | Published: March 7, 2016 7:39 AM

Investors also look to Chinese markets' reaction to Beijing's new economic plans, which include a cut in the economic growth target to a range of 6.5 percent, and a moderate increase in the fiscal deficit to 3 percent of GDP.

Asia stock marketMSCI’s broadest gauge of the world’s stock markets also hit a two-month high on Friday, posting its largest weekly gain since October. (AP)

Asian shares hit two-month highs on Monday, extending their sharp gains in the previous four sessions, following upbeat US jobs data and rebound in oil commodity prices.

Investors also look to Chinese markets’ reaction to Beijing’s new economic plans, which include a cut in the economic growth target to a range of 6.5 percent, and a moderate increase in the fiscal deficit to 3 percent of GDP.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.5 percent, paring about 80 percent of its losses since the start of 2016. Japan’s Nikkei slipped 0.3 percent.

MSCI’s broadest gauge of the world’s stock markets also hit a two-month high on Friday, posting its largest weekly gain since October.

US nonfarm payrolls grew by 242,000 jobs last month, beating forecasts for 190,000 new jobs, while the participation rate rose for three months in a row.

The upbeat figures, coming after data last week showing some signs of recovery in the US manufacturing sector, eased worries that the US economy could be slipping into recession under the weight of low oil prices and a stronger dollar.

“The US job data helped to push back excessive pessimism on the US economy. A brightening US economic outlook is underpinning various risk assets,” said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management.

On the other hand, average US hourly wages unexpectedly dipped by 0.1 percent after a surprisingly strong 0.5 percent increase in January.

That there is no sign of inflation in wages despite a tightening in job markets, suggesting the Federal Reserve can afford to wait longer before raising rates.

As a result US interest rate futures <0#FF:> are now pricing in only one rate hike by the end of year, with virtually no chance seen of a rate hike in March.

The US 10-year bond yield rose to one-month high of 1.902 percent on Friday but still way below its levels around 2.25 percent in December when the Federal Reserve raised interest rates for the first time in almost a decade.

That limited the dollar’s attraction against other currencies. The dollar’s index against a basket of six major currencies dipped to near two-week low of 97.019 on Friday and last stood at 97.328.

The euro rose to one-week high of $1.1043 on Friday and last stood at $1.0992 while the yen was little changed at 113.88 to the dollar.

The commodity-linked Australian dollar shot up to a 5 1/2-month high of $0.7444 on Friday and last stood at $0.7414.

“AUD/USD eased modestly in early thin Asian trading following the weekend commencement of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC). There have been no major positive surprises from the NPC so far,” Commonwealth Bank currency strategist Joseph Capurso wrote in a note to clients, referring to China’s 12-day annual national parliament.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said on Saturday China aims to keep its economy growing by at least 6.5 percent over the next five years while pushing hard to create more jobs and restructure inefficient industries.

Beijing’s draft goal of running a fiscal deficit equivalent to 3 percent of GDP, while marking a rise from the previous year’s target of 2.3 percent, could also disappoint some investors who hoped for higher deficit spending.

Elsewhere, oil prices hit near-three-month highs, extending their gains of about 10 percent last week.

Benchmark Brent crude futures rose to as high as $39.20 per barrel, their highest since mid-December. They last stood at $39.03, up 0.8 percent on the day.

On Friday, copper also jumped 3.6 percent to its highest level since early November.

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