Asia stocks rally as lower bond yields buoy tech; China shares find footing


TOKYO: Asia-Pacific equities gained on Wednesday as bets firmed for a peak in interest rates among major central banks globally, pushing down bond yields.

Benchmark 10-year Japanese government bond yields dipped to their lowest since mid-August at 0.62%, tracking an overnight slide for equivalent U.S. Treasury yields as cooling labour market data cemented views that the Federal Reserve is done raising rates.

U.S. 10-years touched a three-month trough of 4.163% on Tuesday before ticking up slightly to 4.195% in the latest session. Bets on a first Fed cut coming by March now stand at about 64%, according to the CME Group's FedWatch tool.

Lower borrowing costs boosted equity markets, with big tech a particular beneficiary.

Japan's Nikkei surged more than 2%, rebounding from Tuesday's mid-November low, while Australia's stock benchmark jumped 1.65%.

Chinese equities started out weak, still feeling the effects of a Moody's downgrade warning over China's credit rating on Tuesday. However, Hong Kong's Hang Seng bounced back to be up about 1%, supported by a rally in tech, with a sector subindex climbing 1.7%.

Mainland Chinese blue chips flipped from early losses to be up 0.38%.

U.S. stock futures pointed higher, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq indicated up 0.41% after a 0.31% advance overnight for the cash index. S&P 500 futures rose 0.29%, after the cash index ended Tuesday flat.

U.K. FTSE futures, Germany's DAX futures and pan-European EURO STOXX 50 futures each added about 0.3%.

Overnight, U.S. jobs figures came in softer than expected, but coupled with robust services data, added to the narrative for a soft landing for the economy as the Fed shifts to monetary easing, analysts said.

The "selloff in yields across the curve is strong evidence of the intense focus the market has on this week's labour market data," with the ADP employment report due on Wednesday and non-farm payrolls on Friday, said IG analyst Tony Sycamore.

For the Nasdaq, "although we remain bullish into year-end, we are not contemplating opening fresh longs at these levels," Sycamore added, recommending buying on dips instead.

With markets all but certain the Fed's next move is a cut, dovish rhetoric from European Central Bank officials and the Reserve Bank of Australia's decision to hold policy steady on Tuesday have stoked bets for a peak in rates globally. The Bank of Canada is widely expected to adopt a wait-and-see attitude on Wednesday as well.

That has supported the U.S. currency's rebound from last week's nearly four-month low versus major peers, with the U.S. dollar index steady around 103.95 on Wednesday, compared with a trough of 102.46 a week ago.

"The USD weakened when the Federal Reserve looked like they were cutting while other central banks were holding tight," said James Kniveton, a senior corporate FX dealer at Convera in Melbourne. "Now that looks to be changing, and other central banks are following the Fed's lead."

The dollar added 0.06% to 147.22 yen, while the euro slipped 0.04% to $1.0792.

Bitcoin was slightly lower at around $43,560 after pushing as high as $44,490 overnight, buoyed by both Fed rate cut expectations and speculation U.S regulators will soon approve exchange-traded spot bitcoin funds.

Gold edged up 0.2% to $2,023, catching its breath following its surge to a record $2,135.40 on Monday.

Crude was steady on Wednesday, nursing its wounds after closing at five-month lows in the previous session amid a worsening demand outlook from China and doubts about the impact of OPEC cuts.

Brent crude futures added 1 cent to $77.21 a barrel, while U.S. WTI crude futures were down 4 cents at $72.28 a barrel. - Reuters

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