Asia Stocks Steady After Rally, Focus Back on Fundamentals

TOKYO (Reuters) -
A man looks at an electronic stock indicator of a securities firm in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

Asian stocks steadied on Tuesday as investors paused for breath after the previous day’s rally, although tech-inspired Wall Street gains supported broader sentiment as focus shifted to bullish economic fundamentals, away from trade concerns.

Spread betters expected European stocks to open flat to slightly lower, with Britain’s FTSE declining 0.2 percent, Germany’s DAX little changed and France’s CAC slipping 0.2 percent.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was effectively flat after surging 1.4 percent the previous day.

Japan’s Nikkei gained 0.2 percent and South Korea’s KOSPI lost 0.1 percent.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 0.15 percent and the Shanghai Composite Index climbed 0.25 percent after data showed China’s services sector expanded at a steady pace in May.

Wall Street’s three major indexes rose overnight, led by a rally in tech stocks, pushing the Nasdaq to a record closing high.

Friday’s better-than-expected May U.S. employment report has helped revive investor optimism about the world’s biggest economy, shifting the focus away from recent trade tensions.

“Strong U.S. data put fundamentals back in the spotlight, just as Italian political concerns were ebbing,” said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management in Tokyo.

Italy’s anti-establishment parties formed a coalition government on Friday to end three months of deadlock and averting potentially destabilizing snap elections.

“The next focal point is the upcoming FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) meeting and whether the Fed shows any indication of accelerating the pace of its rate hikes following the strong employment report,” said Ichikawa.

The Federal Reserve is scheduled to hold a two-day policy meeting starting on June 12.

With risk aversion ebbing in the broader markets, safe-haven government bonds were sold and their yields rose.

The 10-year U.S. Treasury note yield stood near an 11-day high of 2.946 percent brushed overnight.

The yield had declined to a 1½-month low of 2.759 percent a week ago when Italian political concerns had soured investor sentiment.

The rebound in U.S. yields lifted the dollar to a near two-week high of 109.990 yen and also helped slow the euro’s advance against the greenback.

The euro slipped 0.1 percent to $1.1688, nudged off the 12-day peak of $1.1754 touched on Monday on the decrease in concerns towards Italy.

“It is premature to declare that euro area uncertainties are over. Questions remain around how the new Italian government will agree to prioritize its spending objectives, how Rome will interact with Europe and how the U.S.-European Union trade dispute will evolve,” wrote Brian Martin, head of global economics at ANZ.

The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies gained 0.1 percent to 94.111 after edging down 0.2 percent overnight.

The Australian dollar declined 0.15 percent to $0.7636 after climbing to a six-week high of $0.7666 overnight on upbeat domestic data.

In commodities, oil prices edged higher after falling nearly 2 percent in the previous session, but growing U.S. production and expectations of higher OPEC supplies limited the bounce.

Brent crude futures added 0.15 percent to $75.40 a barrel after losing 2 percent on Monday.

U.S. crude futures were up 0.5 percent at $65.07 a barrel after finishing the previous session down 1.6 percent.

Safe haven spot gold was little changed at $1,291.54 an ounce after posting three days of losses.