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Asian shares advance

Nikkei hits fresh 33-month highs

Image Credit: AFP
A woman stands in front of an electronic board flashing the numbers of the Tokyo Stock Exchange (L) and the foreign exchange rate of the yen against one US dollar (R) in Tokyo on February 4, 2013. Tokyo stocks were 0.48 percent higher on February 4 morning, on the back of lingering optimism over a sharp rally on Wall Street which pushed close to new records.
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Asian shares climbed to 18-month highs on Monday after US data showed some promise of a credible recovery but not strong enough to threaten the Federal Reserve’s easing plans, while momentum also gained on firmer manufacturing data from Europe and China.

The yen took a break from heavy selling against the US dollar and the euro, but fell to its lowest since August 2008 against the Australian and New Zealand dollars early on Monday on confidence of bold monetary support from the Bank of Japan to overcome the country’s stubborn deflation.

More confidence in global economic recovery underpinned oil and copper prices while weighing on safe-haven assets, pushing 10-year US Treasury yields to a nine-month high and 10-year Japanese government bond yields to a three-week high.

European markets are likely to inch higher, with financial spreadbetters predicting London’s FTSE 100, Paris’s CAC-40 and Frankfurt’s DAX would open up by around 0.1 per cent. US stock futures were little changed, pointing to a steady open on Wall Street.

The MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.6 per cent.

“Prices of risk assets are generally expected to face upward pressures,” said Naohiro Niimura, a partner at research and consulting firm Market Risk Advisory. “While risk appetite is returning, prices may become top-heavy for some commodities markets where the relative strength index suggests an overbought territory under the current economic environment.”

Brent crude eased 0.2 per cent to $116.48 a barrel but held above $116, near a more than four-month high, as data from top consumers United States and China reinforced a view that the global economy was headed for a modest uptick this year.

“We are now seeing a consistent story of moderate growth in the US and China, which is supportive of oil prices in general,” said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney. “This will probably be a week of consolidation.”

US data out on Friday showed payrolls rose modestly last month, with upward revisions for November and December, while the Institute for Supply Management said its index of national factory activity rose to its highest since April.

China followed with positive news over the weekend, saying growth in its official purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for the non-manufacturing sector ticked up in January for the fourth straight monthly rise, confirming the world’s second-largest economy was showing a modest recovery.

Australian shares, however, lost their grip on early gains to end 0.3 per cent lower, pulled down by weaker-than-expected housing data, slow job advertising and technical resistance. They jumped 0.9 per cent to a 21-month high on Friday.

Nikkei amy be peaking

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei stock average rose 0.6 per cent after climbing to a fresh 33-month high earlier as the yen declined. The index climbed for a fifth straight day.

Nikkei has been moving in tandem with the yen’s two-month-long losing streak with investors eyeing the change in the BOJ’s top personnel in April for clues to the likely extent of the bank’s reflationary measures.

“The Nikkei may be nearing its peak for now as we may get a specific name of the most likely candidate for the next BOJ governor soon. That may provide an opportunity to close long dollar/yen positions, while a firming yen will then likely spur investors to book profits on Japanese stocks,” said Tetsuro Ii, the chief executive of Commons Asset Management.

The dollar eased 0.2 per cent to 92.64 yen after scaling its highest since May 2010 of 92.97 on Friday, while the euro fell 0.3 per cent to 126.26 yen, still near its loftiest since April 2010 of 126.97 touched on Friday.

In early Monday trade, the yen plunged to its lowest since August 2008 against both the Australian dollar, at 96.78 yen , and against the New Zealand dollar at 78.74 yen .

The euro inched down 0.1 per cent to $1.3628, off Friday’s 14-1/2-month peak of $1.3711 hit after data showed euro zone factories had their best month in January in nearly a year.

On Friday, the dollar index measured against a basket of key currencies fell to a 4-1/2-month low of 78.918. The index was up 0.2 per cent on Monday. As economic optimism rose and concerns about the euro zone’s debt difficulties eased, investors took on more risk.

Research provider TrimTabs Investment Research said on Saturday investors poured a record $77.4 billion in new cash into stock mutual funds and exchange-traded funds in January, surpassing the previous monthly record of $53.7 billion in February 2000.

With the rise in equities on recovering appetite for riskier assets, safe-haven appeal waned, pushing up yields of US Treasury bonds. The US 10-year Treasury yield hit a nine-month high of 2.052 percent in Asia on Monday.

A weekly gauge of sentiment in the Japanese government bond market deteriorated sharply, remaining in negative territory for a fifth straight week as rising global appetite for risk sapped demand for bonds, the latest Reuters poll showed on Monday.