Higher Chinese iron ore prices helped Australian shares outpace regional markets, pushing Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index up 0.7 percent.
Asian shares were flat and U.S. Treasury yields pulled back on Friday as investor caution prevailed ahead of the release of first-quarter corporate earnings, although stronger U.S. economic data helped offset some concerns about global growth. Early in the trading day, MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was barely higher, up 0.03 percent.
Higher Chinese iron ore prices helped Australian shares outpace regional markets, pushing Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index up 0.7 percent. Japan’s Nikkei stock index gained 0.1 percent. The weak gains in Asian markets followed a choppy session on Wall Street that left major indexes treading water, hemmed in by anxiety ahead of corporate earnings and worries about a global economic slowdown, which capped gains from upbeat U.S. economic data.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.05 percent to 26,143.05, the S&P 500 closed flat at 2,888.32 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.21 percent to 7,947.36. Tempering expectations for a sharp slowdown in U.S. growth as data that showed the number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits dropped to a 49-1/2-year low last week Comments from U.S. Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Richard Clarida that the U.S. economy is in a “good place” but reemphasising the Fed’s patience on rate hikes, also helped to reassure investors.
“One of the big take aways from the past few days has been the broad decline in volatility across markets,” National Australia Bank (NAB) analysts said in a morning note. NAB attributed the muted reaction to recent events to dovish policy shifts by central banks, signs that China’s stimulus measures are having an effect, continued U.S.-China trade talks and the Brexit delay.
International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde said on Thursday that the six-month delay of Britain’s exit from the European Union avoids the “terrible outcome” of a “no-deal” Brexit, but does nothing to lift uncertainty over the final outcome. Underscoring ongoing threats to the health of the global economy, IMF Deputy Managing Director Mitsuhiro Furusawa warned that a bigger-than-expected slowdown in China’s economy remains a key risk to global growth.
U.S. Treasury yields inched lower amid the cautious retreat in shares, after earlier rising on the U.S. jobless claims data, stronger producer prices and a weak 30-year bond auction. On Friday morning, the yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes fell to 2.4952 percent compared with its U.S. close of 2.504 percent on Thursday, while the two-year yield , touched 2.354 percent compared with a U.S. close of 2.356 percent. In currency markets, the dollar was up less than 0.1 percent against the yen at 111.73, while the euro gained 0.27 percent on the day to buy $1.1280.
The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major rivals, was down 0.1 percent at 97.047. U.S. crude ticked up 0.27 percent at $63.75 a barrel, while Brent crude was up 0.2 percent at $70.97 per barrel. Gold was slightly higher, having fallen more than 1 percent on Thursday to break below the key $1,300 level following solid U.S. data. Spot gold was trading at $1,293.30 per ounce.