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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Asian shares rise ahead of big economic reports

Investors hope figures will confirm recent signs the global economy is in good health

An electronic stock board showing the Hang Seng Index at a bank in Hong Kong. Asian stock markets advanced Tuesday. Kin Cheung / AP
An electronic stock board showing the Hang Seng Index at a bank in Hong Kong. Asian stock markets advanced Tuesday. Kin Cheung / AP

Asian shares ticked up on Tuesday as investors looked to a barrage of economic data around the world to confirm recent signs the global economy is in fine fettle with inflation staying well contained.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.5 per cent, led by gains in financials and energy shares, while Tokyo's Nikkei rose 0.2 per cent.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.28 per cent to end at a record high of 21,891.12 but the Nasdaq Composite pulled back 0.42 per cent after recent rallies.

MSCI ACWI, an index of the world's 47 stock markets, logged its ninth consecutive month of gains in July, the longest winning spell since 2003-04, on the back of expectations of solid global economic growth.

On the other hand, softening US inflation in recent months prompted investors to bet the Federal Reserve will adopt a patient approach to further interest rate increases.

"The abundance of cheap money is perhaps a theme that is getting stale. Yet, that is the best explanation you could think of to explain the strength of shares and commodities today," said Yoshinori Shigemi, a global market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management.

The CBOE volatility index, which measures implied volatility of stocks and is often seen as investors' fear gauge, stood near record low levels hit last week, partly as investors sell options to enhance low yields.

"The low level of the Vix is a testament that investors expect 'goldilocks markets' to continue," said Shuji Shirota, the head of macro economic strategy group at HSBC in Tokyo.

"Under such an environment, the dollar, which is a safe-haven asset, will continue to decline," he added.

Indeed, besides the United States, recent data from other parts of the world suggest a "goldilocks" scenario where growth is fast enough to create jobs but not so rapid that it would lead to runaway inflation.

A private survey showed growth in China's manufacturing quickened in July, as output and new orders rose at the fastest pace since February on strong export sales.

South Korea's trade data also showed the country's exports grew at robust pace in July led by shipments of memory chips and electronic storage devices.

"Export prices of semiconductors is sharpening export growth, but it seems export volume is also increasing given that sales to India surged," said Park Sang-hyun, the chief economist at HI Investment & Securities.

"July export growth shows global demand recovery is well on its way," he said.

All of these data will be followed by preliminary flash estimates of euro-zone GDPt at 09.00 GMT and US spending and manufacturing data, due at 12.30 GMT and 14.00 GMT, respectively.

In the currency market, the euro traded at US$1.1824, having risen to as high as $1.1846, its best level since January 2015, with a test of $1.20 within sight.

It has gained almost 15 per cent from its January 3 low of $1.034, which was its weakest level since January 2003, on rising expectations that the European Central Bank will taper its stimulus next year.

The dollar also slipped to a 1-1/2-month low of 110.005 yen, and last stood at 110.12 yen, down 0.1 per cent.

The Australian dollar gained 0.4 per cent to $0.8031, helped by the strong Chinese data, ahead of the Reserve Bank of Australia's policy announcement later in the day. The RBA is widely expected to keep interest rates on hold.

The Chinese yuan hit 10-month highs in both onshore and offshore trade.

The firing of US president Donald Trump's communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, on Monday over an obscene tirade, just over a week after naming him to the job, also cemented the perception of a White house in disarray, further dragging on the dollar.

An administration official said Mr Trump's new chief of staff, the retired Marine Corps general John Kelly, who sources said was seeking to impose order and discipline on a White House riven with factions and backbiting, asked for Mr Scaramucci's removal.

Oil prices rose to two-month highs on Monday, on expectations of US sanctions against Venezuela's oil sector after Sunday's election of a constitutional super-body in Caracas, which Washington denounced as a "sham" vote.

Oil prices maintained gains even after the US treasury department late on Monday announced sanctions limited only to the Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro.

Brent crude futures traded at $52.70 per barrel after having hit a high of $52.92 on Monday.

Copper rose 0.2 per cent to $6,380 per tonne, holding near Monday's two-year high of $6,430 and its 2015 peak of $6,481.

* Reuters