Asia stocks rise as stimulus, policy hopes calm nervous investors

Employees of the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) work at the bourse in Tokyo October 11, 2018. — Reuters pic
Employees of the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) work at the bourse in Tokyo October 11, 2018. — Reuters pic

TOKYO, Aug 19 — Asian stocks rose today as hopes of more stimulus from central banks around the world and steps being taken by major economies such as Germany and China soothed investors’ fears of a sharp global economic slump.

Over recent weeks, recession anxiety — triggered by an inversion in the US bond yield curve — has led to a shakeout in financial markets. That has driven speculation of more support from policy makers, including from the US Federal Reserve which last month cut rates for the first time since the financial crisis.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan gained 0.25%.

Australian stocks added 0.7%, South Korea’s KOSPI advanced 0.5% and Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.7%.

Wall Street shares had rebounded on Friday after a report that Germany’s coalition government was prepared to set aside its balanced budget rule in order to take on new debt and launch stimulus steps to counter a possible recession.

Moreover, in a move viewed as a guided rate cut China’s central bank on Saturday unveiled key interest rate reform on to help steer borrowing costs lower for companies and support a slowing economy caught in the grip of a bruising trade war with the United States.

The yen, a gauge of risk sentiment due to its perceived status as a safe haven, weakened for its third successive session.

The Japanese currency last traded at 106.440 per dollar, having pulled back from a seven-month peak near 105.000 reached a week ago when events including unrest in Hong Kong and a meltdown in Argentina’s markets triggered a fresh bout of anxiety in markets already shaken by the US-China trade war.

“Sentiment in the markets appeared headed for a one-way rout, but policy hopes following reports of the German stimulus have helped halt the steady deterioration,” said Ayako Sera, senior market strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust.

“As for steps by China, it needs to be understood that the latest measures are geared towards markets which are already regulated extensively. But China’s latest move should nevertheless provide the market with relief.”

Elsewhere in currencies, the dollar index against a basket of six major currencies, hovered near a two-week high of 98.339 climbed on Friday. The index was supported as US Treasury yields bounced back from recent lows in the wake of German stimulus hopes.

The 10-year US Treasury yield stood at 1.575%, having pulled away from a three-year trough of 1.475% marked last week.

The euro was steady at US$1.1089 while the Australian dollar nudged up 0.15% to US$0.6786.

Brent crude oil futures gained 0.68% to US$59.04 per barrel, following in the tracks of improved equity markets, with an ebb in recession concerns curbing fears of weak global demand for commodities.

The longer-term outlook for the crude market remained sombre, however, with Opec on Friday providing a bearish outlook for oil for the rest of 2019. — Reuters