Asian markets rally on growing trade hopes and ECB easing

Market prices are reflected in a glass window at the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) in Tokyo, Japan, February 6, 2018. — Reuters pic
Market prices are reflected in a glass window at the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) in Tokyo, Japan, February 6, 2018. — Reuters pic

HONG KONG, Sept 13 — Equities rose in Asian trade today after the European Central Bank unveiled a fresh round of economic stimulus and another interest rate cut while a report said the US was considering a short-term trade agreement with China.

Global markets have been buoyed this week by a growing sense that central banks are on the brink of easing monetary policy to support growth, and yesterday the ECB did not disappoint.

It said it would restart its bond-buying quantitative easing programme to boost liquidity, provide support for struggling banks and reduce borrowing costs deeper into negative territory in a bid to kickstart lending.

The bank said it would not lift rates until inflation moved towards its goal of just under 2.0 per cent over the medium term.

The announcement, while slightly short of expectations, was broadly cheered by markets, sending equities in Europe and New York higher.

“In the end, it wasn’t a big bazooka, but ECB President Mario Draghi did his level best trying to convince investors that monetary policy will remain extremely accommodative for some considerable time to come,” said Gavin Friend, a senior market strategist at National Australia Bank.

The euro initially plunged below US$1.10 on the news yesterday before bouncing back and in Asia it was standing its ground.

The news also provided further hope that the Federal Reserve would cut rates at its meeting next week, even though data showed a jump in US inflation last month.

‘Deal or no deal’

Investors were given an extra fillip by a Bloomberg News report that US officials were considering an interim trade deal with China that could freeze or cancel some tariffs if Beijing agrees to commitments on intellectual property and agricultural purchases.

The report, citing five unnamed sources, comes as tensions between the two sides show signs of easing ahead of high-level talks in Washington next month.

China has said it would remove some US goods from its tariffs list — with big-ticket items including pork and soybeans also now being considered — while US President Donald Trump announced a delay to some levies on Chinese imports.

“A lot of people are talking about, and I see a lot of analysts are saying: an interim deal, meaning we’ll do pieces of it, the easy ones first,” Bloomberg quoted Trump as saying yesterday.

“But there’s no easy or hard. There’s a deal or there’s not a deal. But it’s something we would consider.”

Also, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he was “cautiously optimistic” about an agreement being reached, telling CNBC “we want to make meaningful progress”.

Hong Kong rose one per cent while Tokyo also ended more than one per cent higher, with Sydney up 0.2 per cent and Singapore 0.5 per cent higher. Manila, Bangkok and Jakarta also rose but Wellington struggled.

Shanghai, Seoul and Taipei were closed for holidays.

London fell 0.2 per cent in early trade, while Paris and Frankfurt were flat.

On oil markets, both main contracts extended losses after the International Energy Agency said growth in global demand was expected to remain subdued citing the trade standoff and Brexit.

The pound extended gains on growing hopes Britain will avoid a no-deal Brexit, even as the Democratic Unionist Party denied a report that it had softened its hard line on the Northern Ireland backstop, which is the main barrier to an agreement.

Key figures around 0810 GMT

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 1.1 per cent at 21,988.29 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 1.0 per cent at 27,352.69 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: Closed for a holiday

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.2 per cent at 7,333.92

Euro/dollar: UP at US$1.1101 from US$1.1064 at 2030 GMT

Euro/pound: DOWN at 89.48 pence from 89.67 pence

Pound/dollar: UP at US$1.2409 from US$1.2337

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 108.05 yen from 108.11 yen

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN five cents at US$55.04 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN nine cents at US$60.29 per barrel

New York – Dow: UP 0.2 per cent at 27,182.45 (close)


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