Economy Asia rallies with S&P futures; confused on Syria

Asia rallies with S&P futures; confused on Syria

A man walks past an electronic stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, February 9, 2018.

Asian shares crept higher on Monday as a rally in U.S. stock futures soothed sentiment even as U.S. President Donald Trump kept up his twitter war with China just a couple of days before President Xi Jinping gives a keynote speech.

Helping was news North Korea had told the United States for the first time that it was prepared to discuss denuclearization when their leaders meet.

There was more confusion than reaction to reports, which the Pentagon quickly denied, that U.S. forces had struck at sites in Syria.

Trump said on Sunday there would be a “big price to pay” after medical aid groups reported dozens of people were killed by poison gas in a besieged rebel-held town.

For now, investors in Asia were encouraged that E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 were still up 0.6 percent, while NASDAQ futures rose 0.8 percent.

European bourses looked set to open firmer with FTSE futures up half a percent and Germany 0.4 percent.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan responded by rising 0.7 percent. Japan’s Nikkei put on 0.5 percent and Hong Kong 1.1 percent.

Caution had been the watchword after Trump claimed on Sunday that China would take down its trade barriers because it was “the right thing to do.”

Trump late Thursday threatened to slap $100 billion more in tariffs on Chinese imports, while Beijing said it was fully prepared to respond with a “fierce counter strike”.

Analysts warned the drama would be a long-running one given the lengthy public discussion period on U.S. tariff proposals meant the earliest they might be imposed was somewhere around late July or early August.

“This is not going to happen tomorrow, and given the mercurial nature of the U.S. administration, the whole issue could well disappear before anything really happens,” said Marshall Gittler, chief strategist at ACLS Global.

“Many market participants may be starting to think that this is just a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing in the end. never know, U.S. trade policy is in the hands of someone totally unpredictable.”


The next major hurdle will be a speech by Chinese President Xi at the Boao Forum on Tuesday.

The tech sector faces its own risks on Tuesday and Wednesday when Facebook Inc Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg is grilled by Congress over a political consultancy’s use of customer data.

Some hope the looming earnings season will be strong enough to provide fundamental support for stocks, with analysts tipping the fastest quarterly profit growth in seven years.

Bonds gave back some of their safety gains with yields on U.S. 10-year Treasury debt nudging up to 2.797 percent, though that compared to a top of 2.8380 last week.

Japanese investors sold a record 3.924 trillion yen ($36.68 billion) of U.S. dollar bonds in February, as rising costs of currency-hedging undercut their yield attraction.

In currency markets, the dollar steadied on the safe haven yen at 107.04, just short of the recent six-week peak of 107.49.

The euro held at $1.2277, and above the recent trough of $1.2212, while the dollar index was a fraction firmer at 90.150.

In commodity markets, gold eased slightly to $1,332.80 an ounce, but stayed well within recent trading ranges.

Oil prices edged up with Brent crude futures for June rising 28 cents to $67.39 a barrel, while U.S. crude gained 23 cents to $62.29 a barrel.

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