Asian stocks hold gains, dollar strong on Fed official's comments


HONG KONG: Asian shares mostly held onto this week's gains on Thursday, despite hawkish remarks from a senior official at the U.S. Federal Reserve that boosted the dollar while weighing on risk appetite.

Uncertainty about Chinese policy is also making investors hesistant.

Futures pointed to similar caution in European equity markets. The pan-region Euro Stoxx 50 futures edged up 0.08% and FTSE futures inched 0.02% higher.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 0.16%, with small declines in Hong Kong, down 0.11%, and Korea, down 0.16%, balanced by a 0.24% gain in Australian shares which are heading towards a record close.

Japan's Nikkei climbed 0.45%.

This week the MSCI Asian regional benchmark has recovered most of the ground lost a week earlier, when a series of Chinese regulatory crackdowns on sectors from property to education squeezed Chinese stocks and overshadowed the region as a whole.

Chinese equities have been calmer this week overall. The Chinese blue chip index was last down 0.2%, weighed primarily by investors dumping online gaming companies, fertilizer producers and e-cigarette makers fearing criticism of these industries in state media could portend more government crackdowns.

"In the short term, the further rebound may continue but uncertainties over policy control will drive long-term investors away from Chinese technology names," said Edison Pun, senior market analyst at Saxo Markets.

U.S. stock futures - the S&P 500 e-minis - rose 0.18% in Asian trading.

U.S. stocks closed mostly lower on Wednesday, with the S&P 500 receding 0.46% from a record high. The blue-chip Dow slid 0.92%, though the tech heavy Nasdaq eked out small gains with investors there attaching greater weight to positive data from the services sector than to negative jobs figures.

Markets are looking at the "mixed signals from the data, and trying to assess what the Fed will do," said Kyle Rodda, an analyst at IG markets. Rodda said the latest moves were driven by an overnight speech from Fed Vice Chair Richard Clarida which took a more hawkish tone.

Clarida, a major architect of the Fed's new policy strategy, said he said he felt the conditions for raising interest rates could be met by the end of 2022.

Those remarks helped U.S. yields and the dollar.

The benchmark 10-year yield was last at 1.192% up from a U.S. close of 1.184%, having touched 1.127% - its lowest level since February - earlier in the day.

This helped the dollar, which bought 109.63 yen, compared with a low of 108.71 on Wednesday.

Sterling was little changed against the dollar ahead of a Bank of England Policy meeting.

"Although the BoE is widely expected to leave policy interest rates unchanged, there is a risk that the BoE strikes a more hawkish tone because economic activity is improving and inflation has lifted sharply," wrote CBA analysts in a note.

The firmer dollar in turn weighed a little on gold, with the spot price falling 0.1%.

Oil prices rose, supported by tensions in the Middle East, and recovered a little ground after three straight days of declines driven partly by a surprise build in crude stockpiles in the United State

U.S. crude rose 0.37% to $68.4 a barrel while Brent crude climbed 0.41% to $70.59 per barrel,

Ether, the world's second-largest cryptocurrency, dropped 0.64% having gained 8.7% a day earlier ahead of a technical adjustment to its underlying ethereum blockchain, which should happen later today.

Bitcoin fell 0.8%, resting in the vicinity of $40,000 where it has been for the last week. - Reuters

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FTSE , MSCI , Nikkei , S&P 500 , Federal Reserve

   

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