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China fuels Asian stocks rally, oil climbs on Red Sea worries

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A man holding an umbrella is silhouetted as he walks in front of an electric monitor displaying the Japanese yen exchange rate against the U.S. dollar...

A man holding an umbrella is silhouetted as he walks in front of an electric monitor displaying the Japanese yen exchange rate against the U.S. dollar...

TOKYO, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Chinese equities led a rally in Asian stocks to start the week, after regulators took new steps over the weekend to support the market.

Oil climbed after a step-up in Middle East violence, as a missile attack by Yemen's Houthi group caused a fire on a fuel tanker in the Red Sea, while three U.S. troops were killed after a drone attack in Jordan.

The dollar and U.S. Treasury yields hovered in the middle of recent ranges ahead of a highly anticipated Federal Reserve policy meeting later in the week.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng jumped 1.4%, and a sub-index of mainland property shares surged 3.6% after China's securities regulator said on Sunday that it will fully suspend the lending of restricted shares.

Regional stocks had already started the day on a firm footing, but extended gains after the Hong Kong open, with Japan's Nikkei gaining 0.8% and South Korea's Kospi advancing 1.2%, while Australia's stock benchmark added 0.4%.

Mainland China blue chips, however, were little changed after seesawing in early trade.

U.S. stock futures pointed 0.1% lower after the S&P 500 slipped 0.07% on Friday to snap a five-day streak of setting fresh all-time closing highs, although it marked a new intraday record during that session.

The backdrop for that was a continued

moderation

in consumer inflation in Friday's data, which added to the narrative for Fed rate cuts in coming months, but also suggested policy makers had little pressure to rush.

Markets expect the Fed to keep policy

steady

on Wednesday, but will be hunting for clues on when a first rate cut might come. Economists mostly predict June, but traders are pricing the risk of a March move at essentially a coin toss, according to CME Group's FedWatch Tool.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the currency against six major peers, was content to stick to the middle of its range of the past two weeks at 103.52, little changed from Friday.

Long-term Treasury yields declined about 3 basis points to 4.1316%, putting them near the centre of their range since Jan. 18.

Last week's U.S. data continued the "remarkable run" of not-too-hot and not-too-cold economic indicators, pointing to a soft landing and a May start to policy easing, Commonwealth Bank of Australia strategists wrote in a client note.

Odds for a March move should continue to be priced out this week, leading the dollar index to test 104 and bond yields to rise "modestly," they said.

The dollar was little changed at 148.06 yen on Monday, while the euro was flat at $1.08465 and sterling was steady at $1.27055.

In energy markets, Brent crude futures climbed 83 cents to $84.38 a barrel and U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude CLc1 rose 78 cents to $78.79 a barrel.

Gold added 0.23% to $2,023.39.

Cryptocurrency bitcoin ticked up to $42,165.

(Reporting by Kevin Buckland; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)