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Asia shares, dollar look to US infrastructure spree

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Currency traders watches monitors at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul, South Korea.

Currency traders watches monitors at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul, South Korea. (AP photo)

Asian shares inched higher and the U.S. held near multi-month peaks on Monday (March 29) as the chance of yet more trillions in U.S. fiscal spending underpinned the outlook for global growth.

Optimism about the U.S. economy helped Wall Street rally late Friday, while by Sunday some 143 million vaccinations had been given to almost 94 million people.

President Joe Biden is expected to put some detail on his infrastructure spending plans on Wednesday, while payrolls on Friday are forecast to rise 630,000 amid chatter it could be a million or more.

“We expect the global economy to expand robustly at 6.4% this year, fuelled by a large U.S. fiscal stimulus, with positive spillovers for the rest of the world,” said Barclays economist Christian Keller.

“Rising inflation over the coming months should be transitory, and core central banks seem committed to looking through it.”

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan nudged up 0.1%, with activity restrained by the approach of quarter end.

Japan’s Nikkei added 1%, though there was some nervousness when Nomura reported it had discovered a loss at its U.S. unit that could amount to $2 billion.

There was also some caution after a $20 billion wave of block trades hit markets on Friday, reportedly linked to investment fund Archegos Capital.

For now, Nasdaq futures were off 0.4%, and S&P 500 futures 0.3%.

The prospect of faster U.S. economic growth has spurred speculation of rising inflation and weighed on Treasury prices. Yields on U.S. 10-year notes were up at 1.67%, and nearing the recent 13-month top of 1.754%.

European yields have been restrained by active buying from the European Central Bank, widening the dollar’s yield advantage over the euro. The single currency was last at $1.1786, having hit a five-month low of $1.1760 last week.

Analysts at TD Securities noted the euro had failed to find any benefit from a very strong German IfO survey on Friday that showed business morale at a near two-year high and signs of recovery in the service sector.

“This suggests that market positioning still remains significantly skewed toward the long side in EURUSD — even though spot has seen a meaningful decline through the 200-day moving average,” they wrote in a note. “We continue to focus on downside risks from here.”

The dollar was also firm at 109.70 yen, having reached its highest since early June on Friday at 109.84. The dollar index stood at 92.776, after reaching its highest since mid-November.

The lift in yields has weighed on gold, which offers no fixed return, and left it at $1,730 an ounce.

Oil prices, and commodities in general, have been supported by speculation a blockage in the Suez canal could take weeks to clear, delaying oil shipments of a million barrels a day. There are now over 300 vessels waiting to pass through the shipping route which accounts for 12% of global trade.

The market will be cautious ahead of an OPEC meeting this week which will have to decide whether to extend supply limits, or loosen the spigots. [O/R]

Brent was off 7 cents at $64.50 in early trade, while U.S. crude dipped 24 cents to $60.73 per barrel.


Updated : 2021-04-12 01:12 GMT+08:00