Asia shares encouraged by Wall Street record, await Fed outlook


SYDNEY – Asian shares crept higher on Wednesday after Wall Street notched another all-time high, while the dollar and bonds awaited clarity on the Federal Reserve’s future path for US policy after a likely rate rise later in the day.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan added 0.2 percent, while Japan’s Nikkei put on 0.5 percent.

The Philippine Stock Exchange Index opened 7,933.75, up 0.2 percent.

Markets took their lead from the Dow, which rose 0.44 percent, while the S&P 500 gained 0.45 percent and the Nasdaq 0.73 percent.

The S&P 500 technology sector rebounded 0.9 percent, following its biggest two-day decline in nearly a year. Big tech names, including Microsoft and Facebook , led the index higher.

Chinese May industrial output and retail sales figures out on Wednesday morning (0200 GMT) are forecast to show slightly slower but still solid growth, but will likely just be an appetizer to the Fed’s main course.

The central bank is scheduled to release its decision at 1800 GMT on Wednesday with a news conference to follow from Chair Janet Yellen.

Investors fully expect a rate rise largely because Fed officials have told them to, so attention will rather be on the outlook for policy and particularly when the central bank might begin to wind down its massive portfolio of US debt.

“The main focus this week will be on the Fed’s balance sheet policy,” said Michelle Girard, chief US economist at RBS.

“While we expect the formal announcement of a change in its balance sheet policy to be made in September, we do not rule out the possibility that strong guidance regarding the time frame for tapering is delivered sooner.”

While the Fed still has another hike pencilled in for this year, a recent run of soft inflation data has left fund futures implying only a 40 percent chance of a move by December.

The market’s five-year outlook for inflation in five years time has been falling steadily and currently stands at a seven-month trough of 2.18 percent.

It had spiked as high as 2.52 percent last November in the wake of President Donald Trump’s surprise election victory.

This leaves the market vulnerable to any hawkish spin from the Fed, which would likely slug Treasury prices while lifting the embattled US dollar.

The currency could do with the help having taken a fresh knock on Tuesday when the head of Canada’s central bank put his own hawkish spin on the outlook for rates there.

The US dollar fell as far as C$1.3209, its lowest since Feb. 28, having shed two cents in as many days.

It also lost ground to sterling after UK inflation data surprised on the high side and amid reports Britain’s ruling Conservative Party was likely to sign a deal on Wednesday to form a minority government.

Against a basket of currencies, the dollar was a whisker firmer on Wednesday at 97.016 and little changed on the Japanese yen at 110.04.

In commodity markets, oil slipped after an industry group reported a surprise rise in crude stocks, confounding expectations for a drawdown.

Benchmark Brent crude retreated 47 cents to $48.25 a barrel while US light crude shed 52 cents to $45.94. (Editing by Kim Coghill) – with ABS-CBN News

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