Asian stocks inch up as Fed’s Powell hints at rate cut ahead

Big 5

Asian stocks rose in Thursday afternoon trade after U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell signaled overnight that the U.S. central bank could be cutting interest rates soon.

Chinese stocks gained by the afternoon. The Shanghai composite added 0.33%, while the Shenzhen component rose 0.4% and the Shenzhen composite advanced 0.372%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index also jumped 1.19%.

The Nikkei 225 rose 0.47% in afternoon trade, while the Topix gained 0.52%. Shares of game maker Nintendo jumped more than 3.5% a day after the company announced a cheaper version of its Switch video game console.

In South Korea, the Kospi added 1.18%.

Relations between Tokyo and Seoul remain frosty, with Japan saying last week it would tighten restrictions on exports of three materials used in smartphone displays and chips, over a dispute with Seoul on South Koreans being forced to work for Japanese firms during World War Two.

On Thursday, South Korea announced that up to 300 billion won (approx. $256 million) would be set aside to cope with Japan’s export curbs.

Shares of companies potentially affected by the export curbs, such as Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix, rose 2.09% and 2.88% respectively on Thursday afternoon.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.47% higher, as the sectors traded higher. Banks are under the spotlight, with Australia’s corporate regulator threatening on Thursday to prosecute some of the country’s largest lenders over their sales of consumer insurance products in the past decade.

Overall, the MSCI Asia-ex Japan index added more than 0.9%.

Fed’s Powell signals potential rate cut

Overnight stateside, the S&P 500 breached the 3,000 level for the first time, but pared gains to close 0.5% higher at 2,993.07. The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 76.71 points to finish its trading day on Wall Street at 26,860.20, while the Nasdaq Composite saw a record close at 8,202.53.

In testimony to the House Financial Services Committee, Fed Chair Powell said business investments across the U.S. have slowed “notably” recently as uncertainties over the economic outlook linger.

“Many FOMC participants saw that the case for a somewhat more accommodative monetary policy had strengthened,” Powell said in prepared remarks. “Since then, based on incoming data and other developments, it appears that uncertainties around trade tensions and concerns about the strength of the global economy continue to weigh on the U.S. economic outlook.”

 

“Anyone fearful that Fed chair Jay Powell might be about to cast aspersions on the likelihood of the FOMC agreeing to cut rates when it next meets on July 30th and 31st needn’t have worried, ” Ray Attrill, head of foreign exchange strategy at National Australia Bank, wrote in a morning note.

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 96.864 after slipping from levels above 97.5 yesterday.

 

The Japanese yen traded at 107.98 against the dollar after strengthening from levels above 108.5 in the previous session, while the Australian dollar was at $0.6972 after bouncing from levels below $0.695 yesterday.

Oil prices were higher in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures contract rising 0.25% to $67.18 per barrel, while U.S. crude futures added 0.4% to $60.67 per barrel.

The moves came after oil prices surged more than 4% on Wednesday following a larger-than-expected decline in U.S. crude inventories as well as the evacuation of rigs in the Gulf of Mexico by major producers prior to an expected storm.

Source: Reuters

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