Asia Stocks Up as Metals Rally Signals Solid Growth Outlook

SYDNEY (Reuters) —
A man is reflected in an electronic stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan. (Reuters/Issei Kato)

Asian shares rose on Wednesday with oil and copper prices rocketing to multi-year highs in an uplifting sign for global growth and inflation, while major currencies were becalmed in a shortened work week.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan climbed 0.3 percent to near a recent one-month top.

For the year so far, the index has surged about 32 percent thanks to stellar corporate earnings in a strengthening global economy.

A gauge of world shares hovered near record highs, after gaining in every single month this year.

Pointing to a positive start for European and U.S. shares, FTSE futures inched up 0.2 percent while S&P e-mini futures and Dow minis were also a touch firmer.

The gains in Asia came as copper – widely regarded as a barometer of global growth – jumped for a ninth straight session to a 3-½-year peak on expectations of strong demand from China. Oil was equally robust, but it was supply fears that kept it near its highest since mid-2015.

Chinese customs data released on Tuesday showed that the country’s refined copper imports leaped 19 percent in November from a year earlier.

“My sense is that the rally in copper supports expectations that 2018 is going to be a strong year for synchronized global growth,” said Greg McKenna, chief strategist at AxiTrader.

“We see there are small bets being placed for further price growth in [2018].”

The commodities rally boosted shares in resource-dependent Australia, sending the country’s benchmark index to decade highs.

Mining giant BHP Billiton, Woodside Petroleum and gold miner Newcrest were among the top gainers.

In addition, Asian suppliers of iPhone enjoyed a stellar rebound after sliding earlier this week on a report suggesting weaker demand for iPhoneX.

Taiwan’s Pegatron Corp and Hon Hai climbed more than 1 percent, while Apple Inc’s rival Samsung Electronics rose more than 2 percent.

In forex markets, trading was thin with most major currencies muted. The euro was up 0.2 percent to $1.18780 and the dollar was barely changed at 113.19 yen.

The Australian dollar hit a two-month high, becoming one of the best performing major currencies this year along with the euro and the British pound.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against other major currencies, is seen ending about 9 percent lower in 2017 as the reflation trade seen at the start of the year faded. It is down about 3 percent on the yen.

In commodities, Brent crude, the international benchmark for oil prices, gave back its gains on Wednesday to trade at $66.69 a barrel. U.S. crude was off 23 cents at $59.74 after climbing as far as $60.01.

Spot gold stayed within a striking distance of a four-week peak at 1,282 an ounce. “I do think the commodity trade is one we need to watch,” said Chris Weston, Melbourne-based chief strategist at IG.

“This is an asset class that is hot at the moment and could really dictate inflationary trends in 2018, where inflation, volatility and the U.S. dollar hold the key to the capital markets.”

Several economists have predicted the return of inflationary pressures in 2018, which would help global central banks wind down years of super-easy policies and hike interest rates.

The U.S. Federal Reserve raised rates three times this year and is set to deliver further hikes in 2018. The European Central Bank is expected to finally begin clawing back its monetary stimulus and tighten policy after keeping the deposit rate below zero since 2014.

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