TOKYO, Jan 30 — Asian shares advanced today as investor confidence in the global economic outlook strengthened on solid US data, giving comfort to investors ahead of the US Federal Reserve’s monetary policy decision due later in the session.
Optimism over economic recovery from strong US housing data and China’s promising economic growth forecast for 2013 raised expectations for robust demand for fuel and industrial commodities, underpinning oil prices and lifting copper.
European markets are seen pausing after hitting two-year highs, with financial spreadbetters predicting London’s FTSE 100 , Paris’s CAC-40 and Frankfurt’s DAX would open nearly flat. A 0.1 per cent drop in US stock futures suggested a cautious start on Wall Street.
The MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.4 per cent, after rising to near a 18-month high, building on the previous day’s 1 per cent rally. Gains were led by a 1 per cent rise in the energy sector .
London copper added 0.5 per cent to US$8,146.50 (RM24,440) a tonne after hitting US$8,159, its highest since January 11, while US crude oil held steady around US$97.56 a barrel after rising over 1 per cent yesterday on expectations of higher demand. Brent inched up 0.1 per cent to US$114.45.
Shanghai rebar steel futures climbed more than 1 per cent to their highest since May on views demand from top steel consumer China will pick up after a week-long holiday in February.
“Sentiment has changed this year, with signs of stabilisation in the euro zone, a US economic recovery and a shift to a new Chinese political regime removing obstacles which had stood in the way of investors taking risks last year,” said Xiao Minjie, an independent economist based in Tokyo.
“Domestic demand holds the key this year. Beijing’s drive to urbanise inner China will boost infrastructure spending while Southeast Asia will also likely see expansion in domestic demand accelerating,” he said.
Commodity-reliant Australian shares inched up 0.2 per cent to a fresh 21-month high, with rising copper prices bolstering top miners. It was the 10th straight day of gains, the longest winning run since October 2003.
“The bar is set almost embarrassingly low for the vast majority of key macro indicators for the US, and anything mildly positive is serving to feed more buying enthusiasm. The prevailing market psyche is easily pleased,” said Tim Waterer, senior trader at CMC Markets.
Hong Kong shares jumped 0.8 per cent and Shanghai shares rose 0.3 per cent.
Japan’s Nikkei stock average soared 2.3 per cent to a fresh 33-month high, partly due to a weaker yen.
The 10-year US Treasury yield rose to as high as a nine-month high of 2.021 per cent in Asia today.
“A big question is whether the Fed is still cautious on the economy following recent improvements in Europe and US fiscal cliff talks,” said Hiroki Shimazu, fixed income analyst at SMBC Nikko Securities, adding that a more optimistic Fed economic assessment could pressure Treasuries.
The Fed ends a two-day policy meeting today, and few market watchers expect any near-term shift in its current, very accommodative stance.
But investors will focus on the statement for any clues to the Fed’s thinking on if and when it might pull back from its aggressive easing stimulus. The minutes from the December meeting, released earlier this month, hinted at uneasiness within the Fed around its asset-buying program and sparked a sell-off in Treasuries and lifted yields up out of ranges.
Morgan Stanley said in a research note that global stimulus efforts and structural reallocation paved the way for a sustained period of asset-price reflation.
“This has three implications: Reflation would lend support to higher-yielding emerging markets assets, safe-haven assets would continue to weaken, and expectations about emerging markets policy would likely shift,” it said.
The yen stayed pressured, with the Bank of Japan set to pursue strong monetary easing as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration pushes for radical reflationary policies to end stubborn deflation.
The dollar rose 0.2 per cent to 90.93 yen, near its highest level since June 2010 of 91.32 reached on Monday. The euro gained 0.2 per cent to 122.66 yen, not far from 122.91 also touched on Monday, its highest point since April.
The prospect of continued weakness in the yen and rising risk appetite lifted the Australian dollar to four-year highs on the yen and New Zealand dollars hovered near a four-year high against the yen.
Aussie rose as high as 95.34 yen while Kiwi rose as high 76.27 yen, close to 76.37 set Friday, its strongest since 2008.
The euro traded at US$1.3496, a tad below yesterday’s 14-month high of US$1.3498.
Asian credit markets underperformed the region’s equities as the spread on the iTraxx Asia ex-Japan investment-grade index widened by 2 basis points on an increase in new issues and some caution before the Fed’s statement. — Reuters