July 19, 2019 / 1:19 AM / 2 months ago

Global Markets: Asia stocks firm as Fed props up rate cut expectations

TOKYO (Reuters) - Asian stocks rose on Friday after a top Federal Reserve official cemented expectations of a U.S. interest rate cut later this month, fuelling appetite for riskier assets and keeping a cap on the dollar.

FILE PHOTO: Visitors are seen at the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo, Japan, October 11, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato

In early European trade, pan-region Euro Stoxx 50 futures were up 0.63%, German DAX futures rose 0.63% and Britain’s FTSE futures gained 0.46%.

In oil markets, crude surged after the United States said its navy destroyed an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz, a major chokepoint for global crude flows, raising concerns about supply disruptions out of the region.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 1%, bouncing back from the previous day’s losses, while Japan’s Nikkei advanced 2%.

New York Fed President John Williams said on Thursday that policymakers could not wait for economic disaster to hit before adding stimulus, in a speech read as a strong argument in favour of quick monetary action.

The comments by Williams made it a virtual certainty the Fed would cut interest rates by 25 basis points (bps) at its July 30-31 policy meeting and also revived expectations of an even deeper 50 bps reduction.

Financial markets quickly reacted, with Fed fund rate futures at one point pricing in almost 70 percent chance of a 50 bp cut at the month-end meeting. The odds eased to around 40 percent after the New York Fed clarified that Williams’ speech was not about immediate policy direction.

“In July we expect central banks to ease across the globe, led by the Fed and the ECB,” economists at Morgan Stanley wrote.

After rate cuts by South Africa and Ukraine this week, Russia and Turkey are expected to join the easing in the central and eastern European sphere, they added.

South Korea and Indonesia also lowered rates this week, with countries such as Britain expected to eventually follow.

Wall Street shares shook off a sluggish start and moved higher overnight thanks to Williams’ dovish comments.

Elsewhere in Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.8%, Australian stocks added 0.75% and South Korea’s KOSPI gained 1.4%.

For the week, the MSCI ex-Japan index climbed a modest 1%, as riskier assets were partly capped by U.S. President Donald Trump’s reiteration of his threat to impose further duties on Chinese imports.

The two sides resumed talks recently to seek an end to a year-long trade war that has rattled financial markets and slowed global growth. But most analysts don’t expect an agreement any time soon, with some predicting a strong risk of further tariff escalation.

“Dovish Fed policy expectations do provide support for the equity markets, which are set to rebound after suffering losses the previous day,” said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui DS Asset Management. “But factors such as U.S.-China trade issues and tensions over Iran are likely to limit the markets’ gains.”

The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies stood little changed at 96.841 after losing roughly 0.5% overnight to a two-week low of 96.671 in the wake of comments from the Fed’s Williams.

The greenback was up 0.3% at 107.620 yen, crawling away from a three-week trough of 107.210 on Thursday after the New York Fed’s clarification of Williams’ comments. The currency had previously lost 0.6% against its Japanese peer.

The euro was 0.15% lower at $1.1258 after climbing 0.45% the previous day.

U.S. Treasury yields were lower across the board in light of Williams’ dovish views. The 2-year yield was at 1.7894% after touching a two-week low of 1.7520%. The 10-year yield declined to a 10-day trough of 2.023% and was last at 2.0465%.

In commodities, U.S. crude oil futures reversed a large part of the previous day’s deep losses, rising 1.45% to $56.10 per barrel.

Crude rallied after the reports the U.S. Navy had destroyed the Iranian drone. Oil prices had fallen on Thursday amid expectations that output would rise in the Gulf of Mexico as operations resumed following last week’s hurricane.

Spot gold extended the previous day’s rally made on the prospects of lower U.S. interest rates and brushed a six-year high of $1,452.60 an ounce, before pulling back a touch to $1,443.41. Middle East tensions also helped boost safe-haven gold.

Editing by Shri Navaratnam,Sam Holmes & Kim Coghill

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