Shares take a breather after stellar month, China data upbeat

Japan’s Nikkei firmed 0.7 per cent, bringing its gains for the month to 16.7 per cent for the largest rise since 1990. — Reuters pic
Japan’s Nikkei firmed 0.7 per cent, bringing its gains for the month to 16.7 per cent for the largest rise since 1990. — Reuters pic

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SYDNEY, Nov 30 — World shares paused to assess a record-busting month today as the prospect of a vaccine-driven economic recovery next year and yet more free money from central banks eclipsed concerns about the coronavirus pandemic in the near-term.

Helping sentiment was a survey showing factory activity in China handily beat forecasts in November, leaving blue chips 6.6 per cent higher for the month.

The rush to risk has benefited oil and industrial commodities while undermining the safe-haven dollar and gold.

“November looks set to be an awesome month for equity investors with Europe leading the charge at a country/regional level,” said NAB analyst Rodrigo Catril.

Many European bourses are boasting their best month ever with France up 21 per cent and Italy almost 26 per cent. The MSCI measure of world stocks is up 13 per cent for November so far, while the S&P 500 has climbed 11 per cent to all-time peaks.

Early today, MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan held steady, to be up more than 11 per cent for the month in its best performance since late 2011.

Japan’s Nikkei firmed 0.1 per cent, bringing its gains for the month to 16 per cent for the largest rise since 1994.

E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 dipped 0.2 per cent, and NASDAQ futures edged up 0.1 per cent.

“Markets are overbought and at risk of a short term pause,” said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital.

“However, we are now in a seasonally strong time of year and investors are yet to fully discount the potential for a very strong recovery next year in growth and profits as stimulus combines with vaccines.”

Cyclical recovery shares including resources, industrials and financials were likely to be relative outperformers, he added.

The surge in stocks has put some competitive pressure on safe-haven bonds but much of that has been cushioned by expectations of more asset buying by central banks.

Sweden’s Riksbank surprised last week by expanding its bond purchase programme and the European Central Bank is likely to follow in December.

Dollar in decline

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifies to Congress tomorrow amid speculation of further policy action at its next meeting in mid-December.

As a result US 10-year yields are ending the month almost exactly where they started at 0.84 per cent, a solid performance given the exuberance in equities.

The US dollar has not been as lucky.

“The idea that a potential Treasury Secretary (Janet) Yellen and Fed chair Powell could work more closely to shape and coordinate super easy monetary policy and massive fiscal stimulus that could drive a rapid post pandemic recovery saw the dollar under pressure,” said Robert Rennie, head of financial market strategy at Westpac.

Against a basket of currencies, the dollar index was pinned at 91.771 having shed 2.4 per cent for the month to suffer its lowest close in two years on Friday.

The euro has caught a tailwind from the relative outperformance of European stocks and climbed 2.7 per cent for the month so far to reach US$1.1964 (RM4.87). A break of the September peak at US$1.2011 would open the way to a 2018 top at US$1.2555.

The dollar has even declined against the Japanese yen, a safe-haven of its own, losing 0.7 per cent in November to reach 103.89 yen, though it remains well above key support at 103.16.

Sterling stood at US$1.3330, having climbed steadily this month to its highest since September, as investors wagered a Brexit deal would be brokered even as the deadline for talks loomed ever larger.

One major casualty of the rush to risk has been gold, which was near a five-month trough at US$1,783 an ounce having shed 4.7 per cent so far in November.

Oil, in contrast, has benefited from the prospect of a demand revival should the vaccines allow travel and transport to resume next year.

Some profit-taking set in early today ahead of an Opec+ meeting to decide whether the producers’ group will extend large output cuts. Brent crude futures fell 67 cents to US$47.51, while US crude eased 41 cents to US$45.12 a barrel. — Reuters

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