Asian shares rise on bets Fed may stay cautious

Wednesday, 18 March 2015 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  Reuters: Asian shares rose on Tuesday, following Wall Street’s lead, as investors speculated that weaker-than-expected U.S. data could prompt the Federal Reserve to express caution this week on the timing of a future rate hike. Financial spreadbetters expected Britain’s FTSE 100 to open 8 to 14 points lower, or down as much as 0.2%; Germany’s DAX to open 10 to 15 points lower, or down as much as 0.1%; and France’s CAC 40 to open between flat and 4 points lower, as wariness over the Fed offset the cheer generated by the European Central Bank’s easing programme launched last week. “Although the ECB is giving the bulls a strong impetus to take markets higher, there’s a natural reticence to do so just ahead of the Fed meeting where they may set markets up for a June rate hike,” Jonathan Sudaria, a dealer at Capital Spreads, said in a note. U.S. crude oil remained under pressure from a global supply glut, after losing as much as 4% in the previous session to hit a six-year low. It was last down about 0.3% at $43.75 a barrel. Brent steadied, edging up 0.2% to $54.06. The Federal Open Market Committee is scheduled to begin its two-day policy meeting later on Tuesday, and many analysts had expected the central bank to drop the word “patient” from its formal statement on the timing of its first interest rate increase since 2006. Economists polled by Reuters were almost evenly split on whether a rate increase will come in June or later in the year. But downbeat data on U.S. manufacturing, industrial output and housing on Monday offered the Fed a reason to toe a cautious line on policy. “We expect the Fed to drop the word ‘patient’ but at the same time it will say its policy will depend on economic data to keep its hand free so it can raise rates when it wants, whether it is June or September,” said Shuji Shirota, the head of macro economics strategy at HSBC Securities in Tokyo. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.7%, after all three major U.S. stock indexes posted gains of over 1% on Monday. Chinese shares rose 0.9% to near 7-year highs, extending gains on hopes that the Chinese government will loosen policy to bolster its slowing economy. Wu Wenzhe, fund manager at China International Management, likened China’s market rally to the U.S. stock market bull run since the Fed’s quantitative easing in 2009, saying Beijing’s use of monetary and fiscal policies to bolster the economy is “identical to what happened in the U.S.” Australian shares rallied 0.8% after the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) left the door wide open for another interest rate cut. Minutes of its March policy meeting showed the central bank believed a pause this month was prudent following an easing in February. Japan’s Nikkei stock average ended up 1%, marking a fresh 15-year closing high. As expected, the Bank of Japan maintained its massive stimulus and its optimistic assessment of the economy, signalling that the country is on course to emerge from recession without additional monetary loosening. Against its Japanese counterpart, the dollar was slightly lower on the day at 121.25, but still not far from a nearly eight-year high of 122.04 logged one week ago. The euro rose 0.2% to $1.0590, well off Monday’s 12-year low of $1.0457. The dollar index edged down about 0.1% on the day to 99.525, moving away from last week’s 12-year high above 100.00. The dollar’s recent strength has weighed on dollar-denominated commodities. Those commodities found support as the dollar’s rally paused. Spot gold added about 0.3% to $1,156.80 an ounce, pulling away from its lowest levels in over three months as traders awaited the outcome of the Fed meeting.