Thursday, July 14, 2016

Asian shares hover near 8-month peak on BoE rate cut hope

TOKYO/SINGAPORE - Asian shares remained near an eight-month high on Thursday as investors bet the Bank of England will cut rates to ward off recession following Britain's vote to leave the European Union.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.1 percent, hovering near the highest level since November it reached on Wednesday. Japan's Nikkei added 0.8 percent.

Chinese stocks, however, were lower, with the CSI 300 index slipping 0.3 percent and the Shanghai Composite down 0.4 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was little changed.

U.S. stocks ticked up on Wednesday, just enough for the S&P 500 and Dow industrials to set record highs, with investors expecting upbeat earnings to keep the rally going.

Wall Street shares have quickly recovered the losses triggered by Britain's vote on June 23 to leave the European Union, driven by solid U.S. economic data.

"Brexit doesn't mean a breakdown of the global financial system after all, nor a major slowdown in the economies outside the UK," said Koichi Yoshikawa, executive director of finance at Standard Chartered Bank in Tokyo. "Investor activity is slowing down after June 24 but uncertainty is gradually easing."

In addition, concerns that Brexit could disrupt European economies effectively took a Federal Reserve rate hike off the agenda in the near future, and boosted expectations of more monetary stimulus from central banks in Europe and Japan.

Financial markets expect the Bank of England to announce a rate cut later on Thursday. Governor Mark Carney has hinted he may ease policy to cushion the economy from the Brexit shock.

The British pound advanced 0.3 percent to $1.3194 on Thursday. Sterling climbed to this week's high of $1.3340 on Wednesday as political uncertainty eased following the appointment of Theresa May as prime minister.

But it ended the day down 1.4 percent from that peak after May named leading Brexit supporters to key positions in her new government, including former London mayor Boris Johnson as foreign secretary, and attention shifted toward a possible rate cut by the Bank of England.

"The Brexit vote appears to be having a psychological effect as informal measures of consumer confidence have already fallen precipitously," David Lafferty, chief market strategist at Natixis Global Asset Management, wrote in a note.

"Having argued that Brexit may lead to recession, it may be difficult for (Carney) to justify postponing a rate cut."

The euro was stuck in its familiar range and last stood up 0.2 percent at $1.1108.

While the European Central Bank is expected to keep policy on hold at its meeting next week, the euro's overnight index swaps were pricing in further rate cuts over coming months.

The yen, which slid 3.9 percent over the first three days of this week, extended losses by 0.2 percent to 104.75 to the dollar.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for fiscal stimulus, expected to reach about two percent of GDP, following his election victory on Sunday.

Oil prices bounced back after losses of over 4 percent on Wednesday that erased most of the previous session's gains, as a run of bearish U.S. inventory data heightened concerns about a global glut.

Global benchmark Brent crude futures gained 1.2 percent to $46.79 per barrel.

U.S. crude added 1 percent to $45.18.

The revival in risk appetite weighed on gold. Spot gold retreated 0.3 percent to $1,338.40 an ounce.