SINGAPORE, June 18 — Asian stocks tracked Wall Street higher today ahead of a chorus of Federal Reserve officials due to speak later in the day, while the Australian dollar held steady and domestic shares rose ahead of the country’s interest rate decision.

Ebbing worries over political turmoil in Europe also added to the buoyant market mood and sent EUROSTOXX 50 futures 0.6 per cent higher, reversing some of its steep losses from last week. FTSE futures similarly rose 0.43 per cent.

The main market focus in Asian hours today was on the Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) policy decision, where expectations are for the central bank to stand pat on rates.

Focus, however, will be on any forward guidance for a potential easing cycle Down Under.

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The Aussie was last 0.07 per cent higher at US$0.6617, while Australian shares jumped 0.9 per cent, in line with its regional peers.

“The RBA is universally expected to keep rates on hold today,” said Alvin Tan, head of Asia FX strategy at RBC Capital Markets.

“Key domestic data (and) events since the May meeting have been mixed but err slightly firmer in our view — a firm April CPI print, further house price gains, more resilient household consumption, a still tight labour market and expansionary budgets,” he said.

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“Things are still a long way from prompting the RBA to signal a shift to a less restrictive policy stance.”

Elsewhere, MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.68 per cent, helped by an overnight rally on Wall Street.

“Optimism over a resilient economy, improving corporate earnings and the potential start of rate cuts has supported equities, defying concerns that the rally has been concentrated in just a few mega-cap tech stocks,” said Jameson Coombs, an economist at Westpac.

Japan’s Nikkei advanced 0.83 per cent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index .HSI edged 0.14 per cent higher. Chinese blue-chips ticked up 0.17 per cent.

Central banks in Norway, the UK and Switzerland are also due to meet this week, where bets are for the former two to hold steady on rates and for the Swiss National Bank to deliver another 25 basis points (bps) of easing.

Over in the United States, no fewer than six Fed speakers are on the docket today, and they could provide further clues on the US interest rate outlook following last week’s policy decision.

Futures now point to roughly 45 bps worth of Fed cuts priced in for the rest of 2024.

In currencies, the dollar was mixed today and fell a marginal 0.04 per cent to ¥157.68.

The euro fell a touch to US$1.0729, while sterling rose 0.04 per cent to US$1.27105.

China’s onshore yuan languished near a seven-month trough at 7.2554 per dollar, weighed down in part by mixed economic data yesterday that pointed to further support needed from Beijing to shore up the country’s economy.

“China’s May economic data suggest that policymakers have a lot to do to sustain the fragile recovery,” said analysts at Societe Generale. “The supply side and external demand remained more robust than domestic demand, despite the moderation in industrial production growth.”

Elsewhere, oil prices ticked higher on a stronger demand outlook and investor confidence that Opec+ producers could pause or reverse plans to raise supplies from the fourth quarter of this year.

Brent crude futures were up 0.11 per cent at US$84.34 per barrel, while US West Texas Intermediate crude futures firmed at US$80.34 a barrel.

Spot gold edged 0.13 per cent higher to US$2,321.99 an ounce. — Reuters