Monday, 13 February 2017

Asian shares at 1-1/2-year high, yen sags after Trump-Abe meet

Asian stocks rallied to 1-1/2-year highs on Monday, helped by renewed hopes over U.S. President Donald Trump's tax reform plans, generally upbeat global economic data and a rebound in some commodities.

The U.S. dollar rose against the yen on relief that Trump set aside tough campaign rhetoric over security and jobs in a relaxed meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with no mention of currency policy or any protectionist measures.

"The global economy seems fairly sound now, compared to last year, as China is supporting its economy through fiscal measures. The downside risk in the U.S. economy is small due to Trump's policies," Masayuki Kichikawa, chief macro strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS gained 0.3 percent, with resource-related stocks in Australia leading the gains. Markets in Taiwan .TWII and Singapore .STI scaled their highest levels since mid-2015.

Japan's Nikkei .N225 rose 0.4 percent.

European shares are expected to follow suit, with spread-better seeing a 0.2 percent gain in Germany's DAX .GDAXI and Britain's FTSE .FTSE at open.

Comments from Trump on Thursday that he plans to announce the most ambitious tax reform plan since the Reagan era in the next few weeks rekindled hopes for big tax cuts.

Economic data from major economies has been upbeat, including Friday's Chinese trade figures while U.S. corporate earnings have been also solid so far.

On top of this, the Trump administration has provided some relief to global financial markets in the last few days, especially as the U.S. president has avoided ratcheting up protectionist comments that have rattled investors over the past month.

In the weekend meeting with Abe, Trump held off from repeating harsh rhetoric that accused Japan of taking advantage of U.S. security aid, stealing American jobs and "playing money markets."

Those cordial discussions drove the dollar as much as 0.9 percent against the yen to 114.17 yen JPY=.

It last stood at 113.69 yen, extending its rebound from 111.59 yen touched last Tuesday, which was its lowest level in 10 weeks.

A senior Japanese government spokesman said Abe and Trump did not discuss currency issues and that the U.S. President did not request a bilateral trade deal.

The official told reporters that a U.S.-Japan economic dialogue will be led by Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and Vice President Mike Pence. It will address fiscal and monetary policies as well as infrastructure projects and trade.

"We can expect a realistic approach as the dialogue will be led by Pence and Aso. It is reassuring that an unpredictable Trump is not in it," said Yasunobu Katsuki, senior primary analyst at Mizuho Securities.

Trump's change of tack to agree to honour the "one China" policy during a phone call with China's leader Xi Jinping last week was also received positively in markets as a more realistic approach, helping to boost risk sentiment.

Trump's tax cut hopes offered broad support for the dollar, with the euro slipping 0.1 percent to $1.0631 EUR=, edging near Friday's three-week low of $1.0608.

The common currency has been dogged by fears about a strong showing for French far-right leader Marine Le Pen ahead of a presidential election.

The offshore yuan also weakened 0.2 percent to the weakest level in almost a month.

In commodities, copper hit its highest levels since May 2015 after shipments were shut off from the world's two biggest copper mines - due to a strike in Chile and an export's ban by Indonesia.

It last traded at $6,157 per tonne, up 1.1 percent on the day.

Other metals were also buoyed, with zinc advancing 0.9 percent to within sight of its highest levels in more than nine years and lead edging up 1.7 percent towards its five-year high hit in November.

Oil prices dipped slightly after strong gains on Friday on reports that OPEC members delivered more than 90 percent of the output cuts they pledged in a landmark deal that took effect in January.

International benchmark Brent crude futures fell 0.1 percent to $56.65 per barrel.

Reference: Hideyuki Sano

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