Asian shares, commodities up on China PMI; dollar off 6-week low

Friday, 2 August 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

TOKYO/SYDNEY (Reuters): Asian shares and commodity prices rose on Thursday after China’s official manufacturing activity data came in better than expected, easing some concerns of a sharp slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy. The Australian dollar, which is seen as a proxy of Chinese growth because of the countries’ strong trade links, pulled away from a three-year trough of $ 0.8910 hit in early deals. The currency was last at $ 0.8974, up 0.3% on the day. Growth in China’s manufacturing sector picked up slightly last month and was stronger than market expectations, an official survey showed. “People are pretty sceptical about the number itself. You will see short-term relief... but not a massive relief,” a hedge fund manager said. A separate HSBC PMI survey showed China’s factory activity shrank for a third straight month in July, matching a preliminary reading published last week. Still, the official data was enough to spur Chinese and regional stocks higher. Asian shares measured by MSCI Asia-Pacific ex-Japan index advanced 0.4% to be on track to snap a three-day losing run. China’s CSI300 index climbed 2.1%. In Tokyo, Nikkei share average rose 0.9%, and the Nikkei China index, comprised of 50 companies with large exposure to the Chinese economy, outperformed with a 1.2% gain. Beijing is trying to tackle overcapacity in industries such as steel, cement and shipbuilding, but wants to make sure the economy, which has slowed in nine out of the past 10 quarters, does not lose too much momentum. To that end, it has unveiled a series of targeted steps in recent weeks, including spending on social housing and railways and tax cuts for small businesses. Commodity prices were also buoyed by China’s official PMI. Brent crude prices gained 0.3% to trade above $ 108 a barrel. They had climbed 0.7% after the US Federal Reserve said at its policy review that it would continue to buy $ 85 billion in assets per month and made no mention of when it might start to taper its purchases. Gold added 0.3% to around $ 1,326 an ounce after a whippy session on Wednesday where it fell as low as $ 1,305.30, while copper prices rose 1%, extending a 2.2% bounce in the previous session. In the foreign exchange markets, the dollar was up 0.4% against a basket of major currencies, pulling away from a six-week trough hit on Wednesday. The greenback was up 0.3% at 98.180 yen, while the euro dipped 0.1% to $ 1.32860. Policy meetings at the European Central Bank and the Bank of England could see both reaffirm their guidance that rates will stay low for an extended period, perhaps to the benefit of the US dollar. Overnight, Wall Street stocks had ended near flat. Stocks and commodities had been supported by data that showed the US economy grew an annualised 1.7% in the second quarter, beating forecasts of a 1.0% rise. However, growth in the previous four quarters was revised down and the overall impression was of a sub-par performance. That point was acknowledged by the Fed in the handful of changes made to its policy statement. It characterised growth as “modest” rather than moderate and recognised the risk that inflation could go too low. “As a new addition to the statement, it does count as a very minor, marginally dovish change to the official line,” said Martin McMahon, an economist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Yet, while Treasury yields dipped slightly on the statement, the market still suspects the Fed to will start slowing the pace of stimulus sooner rather than later. “We continue to expect tapering of the open-ended asset purchases to commence in the autumn, probably already following the September 18th FOMC meeting. If not, then certainly before year-end,” added McMahon. Much might depend on what the US payrolls report shows on Friday. Forecasts favour a solid increase of 184,000 with perhaps a chance of an upside surprise after the ADP survey showed private jobs rose 200,000 in July.