Asian shares extend recovery into fifth day, dollar weak
Asian shares extended their recovery from two-month lows into a fifth day on Friday as the Wall Street market volatility gauge fell, while the US dollar was undermined by various worries including rising inflation.
US debt yields stood near multi-year highs. Two-year note yields hit a 9 1/2-year high as bond prices fell on Federal Reserve officials’ signalling that recent volatility in US stocks would not stop them raising interest rates in March.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.5 per cent, though many Asian markets will be closed on Friday for the Lunar New year.
Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.5 per cent.
Measured by the MSCI’s broadest gauge of the world’s stocks covering 47 markets, global shares have reclaimed more than half of the 10.7 per cent losses incurred in their slump from a record intraday high on Jan 29 to their four-month intraday low hit a week ago.
Investors were reassured by a fall in the Wall Street Vix index, the “fear gauge” that measures the one-month implied volatility of US stocks.
The index dropped below 20 for the first time since its spike to 2 1/2-year high of 50.3 last week, a jump that caused massive losses among investors who bet equity markets would be stable on a combination of solid economic growth and moderate inflation.
Vix futures prices fell back to more normal patterns, suggesting that the loss-cutting and position unwinding of “volatility short” strategies had run its course for now, easing investors’ nerves.
The US dollar, on the other hand was fragile, with its index against a basket of major currencies on the verge of sliding to the lowest since late 2014.
The dollar index stood at 88.58, just above its three-year low of 88.429 set on Jan. 25.
While there is no strong consensus yet on what is driving the dollar’s weakness, many point to worries President Donald Trump’s tax cuts and fiscal spending could stoke future inflation and erode the value of the dollar.
“His protectionist policies could also fan inflation. Markets appear to have calmed down for now but fundamentally it is different from last year,” said Yoshinori Shigemi, global market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management.
“You could say that right now, rather than stocks rising around the world, it is the dollar falling against almost everything,” he added.
The euro fetched $1.2496, just shy of a 3-year high of $1.2538 hit on Jan. 25.
The dollar changed hands at 106.11 yen, after having fallen to as low as 106.03 on Feb 15, its lowest level since November 2016.
The South African rand hit a three-year high of 11.6025 to the dollar on Thursday on hopes the resignation of President Jacob Zuma had paved the way for new leaders to speed up economic growth.
The dollar’s fall came even as U.S. bond yields remained near a multi-year high.
The 10-year US Treasuries yield hit a four-year peak of 2.944 percent on Thursday and last stood at 2.906 per cent.
Shorter-dated yields also rose as investors grew convinced that the correction in stock prices in recent weeks would not prevent the Fed from raising interest rates in March and twice more this year.
The two-year yield rose to as high as 2.213 per cent, its highest since Sept 2008.
Oil prices maintained this week’s gains, with US crude futures trading at $61.49 per barrel, up 3.9 per cent so far this week.
Elsewhere, virtual currency bitcoin recovered the $10,000 mark for the first time in two weeks to trade at $10,150, gaining 71 per cent from its near three-month low of $5,920.7.
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