Asian shares end the week with a whimper, yen back to intervention watch

SYDNEY: Asian shares are ending the week with a whimper after a recent rally to 26-month highs drew profit-taking, while the relentless strength in the U.S. dollar pushed the Japanese yen towards the intervention zone.

Europe is set for a flat open, having bounced a day earlier as rate cuts there gathered pace. Both EUROSTOXX 50 futures and FTSE were little changed but S&P 500 futures rose 0.1% and Nasdaq futures gained 0.2%.

Overnight, the Swiss National Bank cut rates for a second time while the Bank of England opened the door to an easing in August after holding rates steady. Sterling, the Swiss franc and the euro fell, lifting the dollar broadly.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.6% on Friday, dragged lower by a pull-back in technology shares, tracking a mixed session on Wall Street overnight.

The index is set for a weekly gain of 0.9% after rising to its highest since April 2022 on Wednesday as a recent run of soft U.S. data reinforced bets of two rate cuts from the Federal Reserve to come this year.

"We're seeing more and more of these central banks either open the door or continue cutting rates and that's a really good thing, particularly as we're starting to see some softer data consistently come out of the U.S.," said Tony Sycamore, analyst at IG.

"But in the short term, I think we should look for more of these end-of-month, end-of-quarter flows. In the medium term, I think the market will continue to back those tech and AI winners."

Japan's Nikkei was off 0.1% and the yen remained jittery at 158.91, levels not seen since late April when the Japanese authorities intervened in the market to stem the currency's fast declines.

Data showed earlier in the day that Japan's demand-led inflation slowed in May, complicating the outlook for interest rate hikes.

Chinese stocks fell slightly, with the Shanghai Composite index struggling to stand above a critical level of 3,000 points. The index is 0.1% lower, having skidded 5.6% since a recent multi-month high in late May.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index tumbled 1.7%, extending the weakness seen over the past month.

In foreign exchange markets, the euro clawed back some lost ground and was last up 0.2% at losses at $1.0718, while sterling had less luck and was pinned at $1.2662, the lowest in five weeks.

The dollar also held gains against the Swiss franc at 0.8910 francs, having jumped 0.8% overnight.

In contrast, a still hawkish rate outlook for Australia's central bank has sent the local dollar up a whopping 1.8% this week to a 17-year high on the low-yielding yen.

Treasuries are set to end the week on the back foot. Two-year yields are headed for a weekly rise of 6 basis points to 4.7407%, while the 10-year yield also rose 5 bps to 4.2593%.

Oil prices consolidated on Friday after hitting seven-week highs earlier in the week. Brent futures slipped 0.1% to $85.59 a barrel while U.S. crude also dipped 0.1% to $81.19 a barrel.

Gold prices edged up 0.1% to $2,362.20 per ounce. - Reuters

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