Asian stocks subdued, oil near five-month low on US inventory build

Brent crude futures barely moved at US$60.01 (RM249.85) in early trade after a 3.7per cent slide yesterday to US$59.97 a barrel, the international benchmark’s lowest close since January 28. — Reuters pic
Brent crude futures barely moved at US$60.01 (RM249.85) in early trade after a 3.7per cent slide yesterday to US$59.97 a barrel, the international benchmark’s lowest close since January 28. — Reuters pic

TOKYO, June 13 — Asian stocks stuttered today, dogged by the uncertainty over an intractable US-China trade dispute, while oil prices flirted with five-month lows thanks to higher US crude inventories and a bleaker demand outlook.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan ticked down 0.1per cent, slipping from a one-month high touched earlier this week, while Japan’s Nikkei lost 0.3per cent.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 lost 0.20per cent yesterday.

A bigger mover overnight was oil, which tumbled 4per cent to their lowest settlements in nearly five months, pressured by another unexpected rise in US crude stockpiles and by a dimming outlook for global oil demand.

Brent crude futures barely moved at US$60.01 (RM249.85) in early trade after a 3.7per cent slide yesterday to US$59.97 a barrel, the international benchmark’s lowest close since January 28.

US West Texas Intermediate crude futures firmed slightly to US$51.29 per barrel, compared to the previous day’s close of 50.72 a barrel, its weakest settlement since January 14.

“It is a bit of mystery that oil prices are so low when global stock prices remain relatively supported. But one thing is certain. Weaker oil prices will curb inflation and boost rate cut expectations,” said Hirokazu Kabeya, chief global strategist at Daiwa Securities.

Government data showed yesterday US consumer prices barely rose in May, with the core annual inflation slowing to 2.0per cent, compared to a peak of 2.4per cent last July, adding to the growing expectations of a Federal Reserve rate cut in coming months.

Investors will be looking to what Fed policymakers will say after its next policy meeting on June 18-19, with Fed Funds rate futures pricing in a 25-basis-point rate cut for the subsequent policy review on July 30-31.

The 10-year US Treasuries yield dipped to 2.122 per cent , a tad above tomorrow’s 2.053 per cent, its lowest level since September 2017 while the two-year yield fell to 1.887 per cent.

Bond yields have plunged worldwide in the past several weeks as investors bet the Fed, and possibly other major central banks, will cut rates to cushion the potential economic damage from the US-China trade standoff.

Hopes that the leaders of the two countries will clinch a deal on the sideline of Group of 20 summit meeting in Osaka on June 28-29 have been fading as neither side has shown a willingness to compromise.

Major currencies saw limited moves, and trader say few were placing big bets ahead of key events later this month including the Fed’s policy review and the G20 meeting.

“It seems as though there is already clear consensus in markets. The Fed will cut rates in July. The G20 will be closely watched but few expect any major break-through there,” said Kyosuke Suzuki, director of forex at Societe Generale.

The euro slipped to US$1.1293, stepping back from 2-1/2-month highs of US$1.1348 touched on Friday. The dollar was little changed 108.47 yen.

The British pound is on the back foot after British lawmakers defeated an attempt led by the opposition Labour Party to try to block a no-deal Brexit by seizing control of the parliamentary agenda from the government.

Sterling fetched US$1.2693, not far from this week’s low of US$1.2653. — Reuters pic