By Ankur Banerjee
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Asian shares fell on Monday and the dollar climbed after a robust U.S. jobs report dashed any expectations of a near-term interest rate cut from the Federal Reserve, while stocks in China stocks remained on the back foot on weak sentiment.
Oil prices were tentative following fresh strikes in Tehran-aligned factions in Iraq, Syria and Yemen over the last two days by the United States, with rising tension in the Middle East keeping risk appetite in check.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan slid 1% at the start of the week. The index is down 4.5% so far in the year. Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.5%.
The focus in Asia has been on slumping Chinese stocks as investor sentiment remains rock-bottom. China’s securities regulator vowed to prevent abnormal market fluctuation on Sunday, but announced no specific measures.
The watchdog also said it will crack down on ill-intended short-selling, attract more investment by long-term capital, and earnestly listen to investors’ voices.
China’s blue-chip index eased 0.12%, having touched a fresh five-year low last week. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 0.5% in early trading.
“The frequency of these statements may indicate market stabilisation is becoming more important for policymakers,” said ING economists in a client note.
“Formalisation of a potential market stabilisation fund could provide a short-term boost for markets but investor sentiment remains downbeat for now, awaiting improvement in fundamentals.”
Data on Friday showed U.S. job growth accelerated in January and wages increased by the most in nearly two years, signs of persistent strength in the labour market that could push the Fed to start its easing cycle a bit later in the year than markets anticipated.
The U.S. central bank can be “prudent” in deciding when to cut interest rates, with a strong economy allowing central bankers time to build confidence inflation will continue falling, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell told the CBS news show “60 Minutes”.
“We have to balance the risk of moving too soon … or too late,” he said in an interview that aired Sunday evening in the United States.
Markets are currently pricing in an 80% chance of the Fed standing pat on rates in March, compared with a 33% chance at the start of the year, the CME FedWatch tool showed. Traders are now pricing in just below 120 basis points of cuts this year.
Even before the labour market data, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting last week signalled little appetite for early or aggressive cuts, analysts at Barclays said in a note.
“Such payrolls do increase the risk that the FOMC will need longer to gain sufficient confidence that disinflation is sustainable, perhaps until June, or that it will deliver fewer cuts during the rest of the year.”
The strong payrolls report pushed Treasury yields higher, with the yield on 10-year Treasury notes at 4.077% in Asian hours. Other regional bond yields took the cue and were higher on Monday, with yields on Australia’s 10-year bond and South Korea’s 10-year Treasury bond rising 11 basis points. [US/]
The dollar index, which measures the U.S. currency against six major rivals, scaled a fresh eight-week peak of 104.18, pinning the Japanese yen near a two-month low. The yen was last at 148.59 per dollar. [FRX/]
U.S. crude rose 0.21% to $72.43 a barrel and Brent was at $77.58, up 0.32% to start the week as escalating geopolitical tension and its repercussions on oil supply boosted prices.
Spot gold dropped 0.2% to $2,035.09 an ounce. U.S. gold futures fell 0.10% to $2,034.00 an ounce. [GOL/]
(Reporting by Ankur Banerjee; Editing by Christopher Cushing)