Asian stocks on hold for Lunar New Year, bitcoin eyes record highs

Stanley White and David Henry, Reuters

Posted at Feb 12 2021 02:50 PM

Asian stocks on hold for Lunar New Year, bitcoin eyes record highs 1
A photo of people wearing protective masks, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, are reflected on a screen showing stock prices outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan on August 31, 2020. Kim Kyung-Hoon, Reuters/File

TOKYO/NEW YORK - Asian shares hovered just below a record high on Friday as mixed US economic data caused some investors to show restraint after a global stock market rally pushed many bourses to dizzying heights.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.05 percent, trading just shy of an all-time high reached in the previous session. Australian stocks lost 0.63 percent. Shares in Tokyo fell 0.2 percent, pulling back from 30-year highs.

Futures for the S&P 500 declined 0.12 percent. Euro Stoxx 50 futures were up 0.03 percent, German DAX futures slipped 0.14 percent, and FTSE futures eased 0.13 percent, pointing to a subdued start to European trading.

Markets in Greater China and most of Southeast Asia are closed on Friday for the Lunar New Year holiday. China’s stock and bond markets, foreign exchange and commodity futures markets are closed through Feb. 17 for the holiday.

Bitcoin surged to a new record high after BNY Mellon said it would offer custodian services for cryptocurrencies. The dollar headed for a weekly loss, stung by bitcoin’s assent and disappointing U.S. economic data.

Trading in the United States and Europe on Thursday did not move prices enough to provide much direction, said Tom Piotrowski, a market analyst at CommSec in Sydney.

“We didn’t get much of a lead-in from the northern hemisphere,” Piotrowski said. “Markets are in a bit of a holding pattern waiting for the next catalyst and it is just a question of whether that catalyst is going to be a positive one or a negative one.”

World stock markets were holding close to record highs on Thursday as investors weighed some tepid economic data against increasing vaccinations against COVID-19 and the prospect that more government spending and continued cheap money from central banks will drive higher growth and, eventually, inflation.

The MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in 49 countries, fell 0.03 percent on Friday, also pulling back from a record high.

On Wall Street, the Nasdaq and S&P 500 eked out gains of 0.4 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.02 percent.

Prices held near records as investors bet on more government spending, although enthusiasm was tempered when U.S. President Joe Biden said that China was poised to “eat our lunch,” raising fears of renewed strain on Sino-U.S. ties.

U.S. weekly unemployment claims fell less than expected and core consumer prices rose at a slower pace, which caused some traders to temper the optimism about the economic outlook.

Bitcoin reached a record high of $49,000 before erasing gains.

BNY Mellon’s announcement that it will help clients hold, transfer and issue digital assets came just days after Elon Musk’s Tesla revealed it had bought $1.5 billion worth of the cryptocurrency and would accept it as a form of payment for its cars.

Spot gold fell 0.17 percent to $1,822.21 per ounce. U.S. gold futures fell 0.14 percent to $1,829.50. Gold prices are still on track for their best week in three amid broad dollar selling.

The dollar index edged up by 0.05 percent on Friday but was still on course for a 0.6 percent weekly decline.

Soft demand at an auction of $27 billion of new 30-year Treasuries on Thursday rattled bond investors.

The yield on 10-year U.S. Treasuries rose to 1.1599 percent. The 30-year yield initially rose but then fell back to 1.9398 percent.

Brent crude fell 0.57 percent to $60.79 a barrel, having dropped half a percent the previous session. U.S. oil fell 0.64 percent to $57.88 a barrel, after falling by 0.8 percent on Thursday.

OPEC cut its demand forecast and the International Energy Agency said the market was still oversupplied, which cast a gloom over energy markets.

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