Asian shares push higher, dollar eases

A currency trader passes by screens showing foreign exchange rates at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, March 16, 2021. Asian shares mostly rose on Tuesday, cheered by a rally to all-time highs on Wall Street, though worries over the slow pace of coronavirus vaccinations in the region were weighing on sentiment.

Asian shares rose on Tuesday, shrugging off worries about an increase in regional coronavirus infections, while inflation jitters helped push gold prices to three-month highs.

Equities in Europe and the United States looked set to follow. FTSE futures rose 0.76% and EuroSTOXX 50 futures traded 0.68% higher, while S&P 500 futures were up 0.33%.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan (.MIAPJ0000PUS) rose 1.56% after a mixed session on Monday, still not recouping losses of the last few weeks amid new clusters of COVID-19 cases that are prompting some economies to impose fresh anti-virus restrictions.

Shares in Taiwan, which is seeing a spike in cases, jumped 4.77% (.TWII) as lawmakers said it was in talks with the United States for a share of the vaccine doses President Joe Biden plans to send abroad. That trimmed the index losses in May to 8.4% so far.

Japan’s Nikkei (.N225) rose as much as 2.3% on solid earnings reports and bargain hunting, while Hong Kong’s stocks (.HIS) were up 1.3%. China’s blue-chip CSI300 index (.CSI300) was 0.08% lower.

“This is a bit of a reversal from the pullback last week post the big inflation numbers,” said Chad Padowitz, chief investment officer at Talaria Capital in Melbourne.

“Time will tell whether inflation will be transitory or more pervasive but I think that now that U.S. yields have stabilised, that’s allowed the market to digest some of that,” he said.

“But the reality is we have moved into a higher volatility regime, and because of that we expect to see larger daily movements than in recent years.”

Spot gold traded around $1,869.06 an ounce, near a three-and-a-half month high, after the Empire State Manufacturing Survey, produced by the New York Fed, showed the highest prices paid since the series began in 2001.

“Investors seem to take the view that what matters is that the US economy is recovering, rather than worry too much about the precise strength of the recovery at any particular moment in time,” BofA rates strategists said in a note.

Dallas Federal Reserve President Robert Kaplan on Monday reiterated his view that he does not expect interest rates to rise until next year, helping to reassure markets that the Fed will not tighten early.

But markets are waiting on Wednesday’s release of the minutes from the Federal Reserve’s policy meeting last month, which could shed more light on the policymakers’ outlook on inflation and an economic rebound.

In Australia, minutes of the central bank’s May policy meeting showed it believed wages would likely need to expand “sustainably above 3%” to generate inflation, underscoring how long rates could remain near zero. Wage growth is currently running at just 1.4%.

Australia’s benchmark (.AXJO) rose 0.73%, while Singapore stocks (.STI) gained 1.8% after falling 4.5% last week as the country tightened Covid-19 restrictions in response to a rise in the number of community infections.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe (.MIWD00000PUS) was pushed 0.34% higher at 700.83.

The dollar teetered near multi-month lows against European currencies as Treasury yields stalled in the wake of Kaplan’s comments.

U.S. Treasury yields traded a third of a basis point wider to 1.6437%, while the two-year yield , which rises with traders’ expectations of higher Fed fund rates, touched 0.1551% compared with a U.S. close of 0.153%.

The dollar index was down 0.096%, with the euro 0.10% higher at $1.2165.

Bitcoin rose 7%, paring some of its steep losses since Tesla (TSLA.O) boss Elon Musk said would stop taking bitcoin as payment due to environmental concerns about energy used to process transactions. Ether jumped 7.6%.

Oil prices rose, with Brent crude and West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude both up around 0.4% in Asian trade on expectations of stronger fuel demand as the U.S. and European economies reopen.

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