Asian Stocks, Currencies Start New Week On Calmer Note

by
Reuters
Asian stocks rose and gold hit a near three-month high on Monday, extending a move started late last week when a steep drop in U.S. new home sales tempered expectations the Federal Reserve will soon reduce stimulus.

Asian stocks rose and gold hit a near three-month high on Monday, extending a move started late last week when a steep drop in U.S. new home sales tempered expectations the Federal Reserve will soon reduce stimulus.

Trading was subdued, particularly in the currency markets, as investors awaited fresh offshore leads amid a lack of market-moving economic news out of Asia.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan climbed 0.7 percent, adding to Friday's 0.8 percent gain. Tokyo's Nikkei was little changed.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index advanced 1.0 percent, Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index edged up 0.2 percent and South Korea's KOSPI put on 0.9 percent.

Monday's gains came as a welcome relief after the MSCI index suffered a hefty 2.9 percent drop last week. Much of the heat was felt in the region's emerging markets as investors pulled out of crowded trades in preparation for a post-stimulus world.

Last week Indonesian stocks posted an 8.7 percent slide in their biggest fall since September 2011. They were up 0.5 percent on Monday.

India, Indonesia and Brazil have scrambled to try to stem the destabilising outflows that have slammed their currencies sharply lower, with the rupee skidding to record lows recently.

Global central bankers at the Fed's annual Jackson Hole policy conference were warned that global financial stability is at risk as ultra-easy policies that have flooded the world with cash are slowly unwound.

Uncertainty about when and how these policies will be phased out meant that market volatility will likely remain high, analysts said.

Data out on Friday showed sales of new U.S. single-family homes fell to their lowest in nine months, raising doubts about whether the Fed can afford to start to pull back next month -- giving investors an excuse to buy back severely beaten-down assets.

"We still think the markets are overemphasising their concerns on (Fed) tapering. Tapering is only likely to be put in place if the U.S. economy is in good shape," said Martin Lakos, division director at Macquarie Private Wealth.

While Friday's U.S. housing data is helping stocks and gold to recover for now, it weighed on the dollar. The dollar index , which tracks the performance of the greenback against a basket of major currencies, was flat at 81.377, having slipped 0.2 percent on Friday.

Against the yen, the dollar traded at 98.66 off Friday's peak of 99.15, while the euro bought $1.3381, having climbed as high as $1.3410.

Spot gold briefly popped above $1,400 an ounce for the first time since early June, extending Friday's 1.5 percent rally. It last stood at $1,394.51.

U.S. crude was bid at $106.96 a barrel, following a 1.3-percent rally late last week, while Shanghai copper rose to its highest in over four months. The London Metal Exchange is closed on Monday for a UK holiday.