Asia stocks up on high hopes for Nvidia, NZ dollar jumps

SYDNEY: Asian shares edged higher on Wednesday as anxious investors dared to hope AI-diva Nvidia could meet sky-high expectations, while also keeping a wary eye on the outlook for U.S. and UK interest rates.

New Zealand's central bank offered a sobering assessment of its inflation problems, warning that rates would have to be higher for longer to bring them to heel in a shock to local markets.

That saw the kiwi dollar jump 0.9% to a one-month high of $0.6151 as bond yields spiked, while it surged to 17-year peaks on the relatively low-yielding yen.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan firmed 0.4%, having already climbed for four straight weeks to reach a two-year top.

Chinese blue chips were little changed, just below a seven-month top hit at the start of the week.

Japan's Nikkei eased 0.8% as data showed a weak yen was boosting exports but also stoking imported inflation and weighing on business sentiment.

EUROSTOXX 50 futures and FTSE futures both inched up 0.1%. S&P 500 futures and Nasdaq futures barely budged.

Markets are braced for fireworks when Nvidia reports after the bell, with options priced for a swing of 8.7% in either direction, worth $200 billion in market value.

Analysts wonder how much more it can deliver given that the chip-maker already boasts a profit margin of 77%, and its stock is up 93% on the year so far.

"Sentiment is quite positive, with our bars well-above consensus and a sense that management has left some in the tank to surprise positively," said JPMorgan analyst Josh Meyers.

"This suggests that it may take a big upside surprise, on earnings or clearer forward guidance, to get the stock moving any higher."


Minutes of the U.S. Federal Reserve's last meeting due later in the day should confirm the next move is still likely down, but policy makers first need more confidence that inflation has resumed its downtrend.

Fed fund futures imply about a 66% chance of a rate cut by September and have 43 basis points of easing priced in for this year.

Figures on UK inflation due later in the session could decide whether the Bank of England eases as early as June, or waits to August.

Forecasts are for core consumer price inflation to slow to 3.6% in April, from 4.2% in March, and anything lower would narrow the odds on a June cut and likely pressure sterling.

The pound was holding just short of two-month highs at $1.2712, while the euro was trading steady at $1.0851 , just off its recent top of $1.0895.

The dollar firmed a touch on the yen at 156.36 as the threat of Japanese intervention restrained its advance.

Gold eased to $2,413 an ounce, after touching a record high of $2,449.89 early in the week.

Oil prices slipped amid concerns over the peak U.S. driving season, given that demand was seasonally tracking at its lowest since 2020 and retail prices had fallen for four weeks in a row.

Brent crude fell 60 cents to $82.28 a barrel, and the spread over futures narrowed further, while U.S. crude lost 63 cents to $78.03 per barrel. - Reuters

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