Solid Asia sets global stocks on extended rally, US stimulus in focus


A rally in Asia put global equities on track for a seventh day of gains on Friday as investors bet the U.S. will lead the world out of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the focus turning to a multi-trillion dollar spending boost by the Biden administration.

Tokyo led the advance, with the Nikkei jumping 2.1%. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 1.1% and hit its highest level this month.

The Hang Seng climbed 0.6%, but Chinese blue chips were an outlier, slipping 0.1% a day after closing at a near three-month high.

The MSCI world equity index added 0.2% to 710.34, a fraction off the all-time closing high of 710.36 set on May 7.

European share markets looked set to open stronger, with pan-region Euro Stoxx 50 futures up 0.4% in early deals. FTSE futures were also 0.4% higher.

U.S. stocks were also poised for further gains after the S&P 500’s 0.1% rise overnight, with futures pointing to a 0.3% increase at the open.

The New York Times reported Thursday that President Joe Biden will seek $ 6 trillion in federal spending for the 2022 fiscal year, a day before the White House is expected to unveil its budget proposal.

Meanwhile, the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits dropped to the lowest since mid-March 2020, data Thursday on showed, with companies desperate for workers to meet surging demand unleashed by a rapidly reopening economy.

A separate report confirmed a 6.4% acceleration in the annualised rate of economic growth last quarter, bolstered by massive fiscal stimulus.

Although the scale of U.S. government spending has stoked worries that an inflation spike may force the Federal Reserve to act faster to taper asset purchases and tighten lending rates, more spending is overall good for world growth and has buoyed investor sentiment, said Kyle Rodda, a market analyst at IG in Melbourne.

“This is a market that’s blown off a little bit of froth over the last three weeks, but there’s nothing that’s occurred to suggest that the bull market in stocks is under any imminent threat,” he said.

The results of a Reuters poll of around 300 analysts showed most see world stocks continuing to rise this year on robust economic and earnings recoveries, although any quickening of inflation would temper investor enthusiasm. A majority said a near-term correction was unlikely.

A test of the runaway inflation thesis comes later Friday with the release of a report closely watched by U.S. central bankers: core personal consumption expenditures.

This week, multiple Fed officials have come out again to calm jitters over the growing evidence of price pressures, though they also signalled a possible start to talks about tapering stimulus.

The Fed’s vice chair for supervision, Randal Quarles, said on Thursday that he was “fully committed” to keeping monetary policy running full-throttle while jobs recover, while laying out the case that “upside” risks to inflation may be mounting.

Positive signals on the economy helped lift benchmark Treasury yields back above 1.6% overnight. The 10-year note yielded 1.6181% in Asia on Friday, from as low as 1.5520% mid-week.

The bump in yields weighed on tech shares, amid some shifting from growth- to value stocks. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.4%, while the Nasdaq Composite slipped 0.3%.

Friday will be the last trading day of the month for Wall Street due to a national holiday on Monday.

The dollar was stuck just below a one-week high versus major peers as traders looked to the upcoming inflation report for direction.

The dollar index sat at 90.063 on Friday, after touching 90.179 the previous session for the first time since May 20.

Oil prices extended gains from Thursday, as strong U.S. economic data offset investors’ concerns about the potential for a rise in Iranian supplies. [O/R]

Brent rose 32 cents, or 0.5%, to $ 69.78 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude also added 32 cents, or 0.5%, to $ 67.17 a barrel.