Saturday, 17 August, 2019

Asia cautious as everything rides on dovish Powell

Asia Stocks Face Muted Start; Yen Near 4-Week Low: Markets Wrap US stocks close mixed as investors look to Powell's testimony to Congress - Xinhua | English.news.cn
Russell Knight | 12 July, 2019, 03:29

Major stock indexes have traded in a narrow range this week in anticipation of Powell's testimony before lawmakers Tuesday and Wednesday. Trump previously said he had secured a Chinese promise to buy more agricultural products, but Chinese official media says only that Trump hoped China would import more American goods as part of the trade-war truce.

Still, analysts said prices will remain volatile as investors weigh the trade row against geopolitical tensions in the Middle East. In short, a tighter labor market with fewer available workers for hire should help push up wages which ought to lead to higher prices.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dropped 0.5 percent to its lowest since 20 June.

The S&P 500 Index gained 0.3 per cent as of 12:09 p.m. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures shed 0.42% to $57.42. Earlier, the S&P 500 briefly topped 3,000 for the first time after Powell signaled a willingness to lower rates, citing a slowing global economy and trade issues.

US equities rallied late to close at a record high, while Treasuries retreated after the latest American inflation reading came in hotter than anticipated.

Powell said the central bank stands ready to "act as appropriate".

Elsewhere, Kansas City Fed president Esther George said United States inflation was unlikely to surge anytime soon, but noted that keeping interest rates too low for too long could put financial stability at risk.

"Given we are in the longest expansion and have only had rates lifted to 2.5%, for me it begs the question, is a soft landing possible?" He still thought the Fed would cut by 25 basis points this month - the first U.S. cut since the financial crisis - but whether it would keep going was much less clear.

Futures 0#FF: are still fully priced for a 25-basis-point cut at the Fed's July 30-31 meeting, but have abandoned wagers on a half-point move.

Australia 'outplayed' by England in World Cup semi, says Finch
This was a complete display by England, who were magnificent with the ball, sharp in the field and dominant with the bat. The hosts will have the chance to lift the trophy for the first time when they meet New Zealand at Lord's on Sunday.

NASA Awards Launch Services Contract for Groundbreaking Astrophysics Mission
The mission now is targeted to launch in April 2021 on a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A in Florida , NASA said. The estimated cost of the launch is $50.3 million, making it a relatively cheap project by NASA standards.

Buckingham Palace intruder came 'within metres' of sleeping Queen - 'very worrying'
It was the Queen's long-time aide Paul Whybrew - still employed by the Queen to this day - who came to the rescue. A man reportedly climbed over the front gates of the palace, banging down the doors of the royal residence.

The probability of a 25 bps cut was 98.5% on Wednesday, with a 1.5% chance of a 50-point cut.

However, minutes from the Fed's last meeting, in mid-June, showed some policymakers felt there was not yet a strong case for easing.

In the currency market, fading Fed cut expectations helped the dollar. The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies slipped 0.24% to 96.876, extending losses for a second straight session after reaching a three-week peak on Tuesday.

The greenback was down 0.5 per cent at 107.960 yen, forced off a six-week high of 108.990 scaled the previous day.

The dollar's gains took the shine off gold, which eased 0.3 per cent to US$1,393.14 per ounce. Two-year yields dropped two basis points to 1.81% in Asian trading after sliding eight basis points on Wednesday.

Yields on short-dated U.S. Treasuries, which had ticked higher in recent sessions after stronger-than-expected employment data on Friday, fell on Powell's remarks.

In commodity markets, oil prices rose as US crude inventories shrank more than expected and as major producers evacuated rigs in the Gulf of Mexico before a storm.

Brent crude brushed a six-week high of $67.38 per barrel and last traded at $67.23.

Futures in Japan pointed to a flat start, while contracts rose in Hong Kong and Australia.

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