Markets recover on Greece bond swap hopes
TOKYO, March 8 — Asian shares and the euro recovered today on brightening prospects for Greece to secure a crucial bond swap to avoid a messy default and US data suggesting a recovery in the labour market ahead of key jobs figures.
Greece’s debt swap deal and tomorrow’s US nonfarm payrolls data are seen as a test case for gauging whether markets can build on the optimism of recent months and overcome patchy growth figures which have dented sentiment.
The European Central Bank is expected to hold interest rates steady at a policy meeting later in the day and may make an assessment of last month’s liquidity injection, the second such move which helped soothe market jitters and boost risk appetite.
The MSCI Asia Pacific ex-Japan index inched up 0.2 per cent, snapping a three-day losing streak, while Japan’s Nikkei average opened up one per cent, also breaking three days of losses.
The euro steadied at US$1.3151, recovering from a three-week low of US$1.3096 touched on Wednesday, and commodity currencies gained, with the Australian dollar moving away from a six-week low of US$1.0508 to stand at US$1.0580.
“EM asset prices have pulled lower on mainly global developments that have included uncertainty over the Greek PSI (private sector involvement) deal and some negative growth-related news. This should be viewed as an opportunity for adding to or putting on new longs, rather than as a precursor to a deeper sell-off,” Barclays Capital analysts said.
Major banks and pension funds, representing about 40 per cent of Greece’s outstanding debt, threw their weight behind Athens’ bond swap offer to private creditors on Wednesday, raising the likelihood that the deal will go through and a €130 billion (RM520 billion) international bailout package would be secured. The offer expires at 2000 GMT today.
“Any suggestion the deadline might be extended would probably send shivers down the spine of any ‘risk-on’ traders and EUR would likely suffer badly,” BNP Paribas analysts warned.
The yen slipped to around 81.32 yen against the dollar from around 81.13 yen after data showed Japan logged a record current account deficit in January.
US and European stocks rose yesterday after data showed the pace of job creation by US private employers picked up in February. The private sector added 216,000 jobs last month, the ADP National Employment Report showed, topping economists’ expectations for a gain of 208,000.
Tomorrow’s report is expected to show a gain of 210,000 in nonfarm payrolls, with a gain in the private sector of 225,000 jobs offsetting a modest decline in government jobs.
The ADP data “will likely dictate a positive USD reaction in the event of at least +180K increase in February’s NFP reading due this Friday,” said Ashraf Laidi, chief global strategist City Index Group. “This would be explained not only via an improved US growth/data differential relative to the Eurozone, but also on risk aversion flows as equities face the challenge of diminishing chances for QE3 (quantitative easing),” he said.
The dollar fell broadly yesterday after The Wall Street Journal reported that officials of the US Federal Reserve are considering a new bond-buying programme, a move that would undermine the value of the dollar. But the report boosted US shares.
Positive sentiment lifted oil prices on Wednesday. Brent crude settled up 1.75 per cent at US$124.12 a barrel. US crude was steady above US$106 a barrel after settling up 1.4 per cent on Wednesday. The geopolitical risk premium fell on news that major powers had accepted Iran’s offer for more talks about its nuclear programme.
Sentiment in Asian credit markets also improved, narrowing the spread on the iTraxx Asia ex-Japan investment-grade index by about four basis points early today. — Reuters