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Asia off to slow start ahead of US data deluge

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

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

Asian share markets got off to a slow start on Monday (May 3) as holidays in China and Japan crimped volumes and investors awaited a raft of data this week which should show the U.S. leading a global economic recovery.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was all but flat after taking a bit of a spill on Friday. Japan's Nikkei was shut for a holiday, but Nikkei futures edged up 0.2%.

Wall Street extended its bull run with Nasdaq futures and S&P 500 futures both up 0.3%.

A busy week for U.S. economic data is expected to show resounding strength, particularly for the ISM manufacturing survey and April payrolls. Forecasts are that 978,000 jobs were created in the month as consumers spent their stimulus money and the economy opened up more.

Such gains could stir speculation of a tapering in asset purchases by the Federal Reserve, though Chair Jerome Powell has shown every sign of staying patient on policy.

"Payrolls should show another near 1 million jobs gain, but that would still leave them 7.5 million below pre-COVID levels," said Tapas Strickland, a director of economics at NAB.

"Chair Powell recently noted that it would take a string of months of job creation of about a million a month to achieve the substantial progress required to justify tapering QE."

Powell is due to speak later on Monday and will be followed by a raft of Fed officials this week. Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan caused a stir on Friday by calling for beginning the conversation about tapering.

Powell's patience has helped limit selling pressure in Treasuries, yet 10-year yields still ended last week with a rise of 6 basis points to be last at 1.626%.

The rise offered some support to the U.S. dollar which has been pressured by the rapid expansion of the U.S. budget and trade deficits, a by-product of the economy's outperformance.

The dollar index stood at 91.253 and off a two-month trough of 90.422, though it still ended April with a loss of 2%.

The euro was steady at US$1.2026, having backtracked form a nine-week peak of US$1.2149 on Friday. It now has solid support around US$1.1990.

The dollar has fared better on the yen at 109.29, well above its recent low of 107.46.

In commodity markets, gold held to a narrow range around US$1,768 an ounce sidelined in part by investor interest in crypto currencies as an alternative hedge against inflation.

Ether hit a record high on Monday to trade within a whisker of US$3,000, extending last week's rally in the wake of a report that the European Investment Bank (EIB) could launch a digital bond sale on the ethereum blockchain network.

Oil prices ran into profit-taking on Friday but still ended the month with gains of 6% to 8%.

Brent was last up 16 cents at US$66.92 a barrel, while U.S. crude firmed 18 cents to US$63.76 per barrel.

Updated : 2021-05-08 16:47 GMT+08:00