Economy hopes support shares, oil edges up on Mideast tensions

Tokyo, JapanUpdated: Sep 20, 2019, 11:37 AM IST
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File photo. Photograph:(Zee News Network)

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'MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.15 per cent though it is on course to post its first weekly decline in five, hit by sizable losses in Hong Kong and India.'

Asian share prices inched higher on Friday as economic stimulus around the world eased fears over slowing growth, while crude oil prices climbed on concerns that last weekend's attacks on Saudi Arabia's oil facilities still pose supply risks.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.15 per cent though it is on course to post its first weekly decline in five, hit by sizable losses in Hong Kong and India.

Japan's Nikkei rose 0.46 per cent to come within striking distance of its year-to-date peak and US and European shares also stood near their best levels this year.

The S&P 500 ended flat on Thursday, staying than less than 1 per cent below its closing record high hit in July, while the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index also came within sight of this year's peak.

Monetary easing by the US Federal Reserve this week and by the European Central Bank last week underpinned investor sentiment.

China also cut its new one-year benchmark lending rate for the second month in a row on Friday, by 5 basis points as Beijing seeks to guide borrowing costs lower for an economy hit by the Sino-US trade war.

"The direct and immediate impact on the economy will be limited given the small size of the cut, but the cut has made it clear the Chinese authorities are taking an accommodative stance and should give reassurance to Chinese stock markets," said Wang Shenshen, an economist at Tokai Tokyo Research Center.

The latest US economic data also eased worries about the slowdown in the world's largest economy.

The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits increased less than expected last week while home resales rose to a 17-month high in August.

"Investors are starting to price in the possibility of re-acceleration in the global economy next year. So far this month China has taken steps to support the economy, and US and European central banks eased policy," said Nobuhiko Kuramochi, chief strategist at Mizuho Securities.

"There are hopes of an interim or partial trade deal between China as US President Trump will need to shore up the economy next year before the election," he added.

The US and Chinese deputy trade negotiators resumed face-to-face talks for the first time in nearly two months on Thursday, trying to lay the groundwork for high-level talks in early October.

Hopes for a deal were so strong that the markets shrugged off a media report that a trade adviser to Trump has said the US president is ready to raise tariffs to 50 or 100 per cent.

The New York Fed continued to inject a large amount of cash in money markets to deal with funding squeeze since the start of the week, helping to bring down interest rates in the US repo market, a key funding market.

In currency markets, the British pound kept its uptrend after European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said a Brexit deal is possible and that if the Irish border backstop which the British government wants to be removed could be replaced with alternatives, it would not be needed.

Sterling traded at $1.2533, up 0.09 per cent on the day, having hit a two-month high of $1.2560 on Thursday. The British unit stood near its highest levels in almost four months versus the euro at 88.19 pence per euro.

The euro was at $1.105, staying in a holding pattern this week.

The yen edged up to at 107.91 yen to the dollar, off its 1-1/2 month low of 108.48 yen hit on Wednesday.

The Brazilian real fell 1.4 per cent on Thursday to 4.167 to the dollar after the central bank slashed borrowing costs to an all-time low and signalled it was prepared to do so again in the coming months.

Oil prices bounced back on continued worries about the stability of oil supply as tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran showed little sign of abating after a weekend attack on Saudi oil installations.

Saudi-led forces on Friday launched a military operation in northern Yemen against what it described as "legitimate military targets", an incident that could aggravate regional tensions.

Washington said on Thursday it was building a coalition to deter Iranian threats while Tehran has warned Trump against being dragged into a war in the Middle East and said it would meet any offensive action with a crushing response.

Brent crude futures rose 0.78 per cent to $64.90 a barrel while US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude gained 1.14 per cent to $58.79 per barrel.