Asian stocks rose on Thursday, tracking gains on Wall Street, after the chairman of the Federal Reserve suggested it may be nearing an end to its three-year rate-tightening cycle, boosting interest in riskier assets.
Spread-betters expected European stocks to open higher, with Britain’s FTSE rising 0.5 percent, Germany’s DAX adding 0.6 percent and France’s CAC gaining 0.65 percent.
The dollar and U.S. Treasury yields fell after Jerome Powell said on Wednesday that U.S. policy rates were “just below” neutral, less than two months after saying rates were probably “a long way” from that point.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.6 percent. Australian stocks gained 0.6 percent and Japan’s Nikkei climbed 0.4 percent. But the Shanghai Composite Index bucked the trend and slipped 1 percent.
Gains in Asia were tempered by investor jitters ahead of high-stakes trade talks between President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Saturday on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Argentina.
Economists at ANZ pointed out that policy hawks in the Trump administration who want Washington to take a tough stance against Beijing appear to be in the ascendancy.
“They will want some concessions from China, not least of all on what they perceive is theft of intellectual property and forced technology transfer,” wrote the ANZ economists.
“Thus, it would seem the prospect of the Trump-Xi meeting ending without a sustainable resolution to their differences is relatively high.”
Analysts believe any signs of a thaw in U.S.-China tensions could trigger a knee-jerk rally, but say the move would likely be short-lived unless there are substantive concessions – most notably if Xi can persuade Trump to postpone a sharp tariff hike on Chinese goods due to take effect Jan. 1.
The Dow rallied 2.5 percent and Nasdaq surged nearly 3 percent on Wednesday as Powell’s comments eased fears of a faster pace of rate hikes in 2019.
“Equities gained as Powell hinted of implementing fewer rate hikes when the economy is still doing well,” said Masafumi Yamamoto, chief forex strategist at Mizuho Securities in Tokyo.
“The likelihood of slower U.S. monetary tightening caused the dollar to slump against currencies, particularly the euro, which could soon benefit from an ECB rate hike.”
The euro was 0.15 percent higher at $1.1384 after advancing 0.7 percent the previous day.
The dollar dipped 0.35 percent to 113.26 yen after being knocked down from a two-week high above 114.00 scaled overnight.
The Australian dollar, sensitive to shifts in broader risk sentiment, jumped more than 1 percent on Wednesday and last stood at $0.7319 for a gain of 0.15 percent.
The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies inched down to 96.731 following an overnight loss of 0.6 percent.
The 10-year Treasury yield fell to 3.013 percent, its lowest since Sept. 18, following Powell’s comments. The two-year Treasury yield was down for the third straight session.
Oil prices clawed back some ground from losses in the previous session, but an increase in U.S. crude inventories and uncertainty in the run to an OPEC meeting next week kept markets under pressure.
U.S. crude futures were up 0.3 percent at $50.41 per barrel after sliding 2.5 percent the previous day.
Brent crude inched down 0.1 percent to $59.69 per barrel. It has slumped 21 percent this month, during which it fell to a 13-month trough of $58.41.