Asian shares rise on dovish Fed chair, oil up as hurricane batters Louisiana

Alun John, Reuters

Posted at Aug 30 2021 09:23 AM

HONG KONG - Asian shares started the week with gains and the dollar was not far off two-week lows after US Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell struck a more dovish tone than some investors expected in long-awaited speech on Friday.

Oil prices rose, meanwhile, after energy firms suspended production as Hurricane Ida slammed into the U.S.' southern coast.

Japan's Nikkei rose 0.9 percent soon after the bell, and MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan gained 0.32 percent in early trading before Chinese markets had opened.

Australia climbed 0.39 percent and Korea's Kopsi gained 0.54 percent.

U.S. stock futures, the S&P 500 e-minis, were barely moved, up 0.04 percent.

Investors had been waiting to see whether Powell, who was speaking at a symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, would give a clear indication of his views on timing of the central bank's tapering of asset purchases or hiking interest rates to start removing monetary stimulus.

However, in his prepared remarks, he offered no indication on cutting asset purchases beyond saying it could be "this year", causing the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq to close last week at new record highs.

The next big event on traders' calendars is U.S. nonfarm payroll figures for August due to be published Friday, as Powell has suggested an improvement in the labor market is one major remaining prerequisite for action.

"A strong payrolls print could instigate a debate for a September tapering start," Rodrigo Catril, senior FX strategist at NAB, said in a note.

The absence of a timetable for tapering caused U.S. benchmark Treasuries and the dollar to slip, and both trends continued on Monday morning in Asia.

The yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes was 1.3054 percent compared with its U.S. close of 1.312 percent, and the dollar index which measures the greenback against a basket of currencies was around a two week low.

Investors in China, in contrast, are watching data this week to see whether they will indicate policymakers are more likely step up easing measures.

Purchasing manager surveys for manufacturing and services are both due this week, with traders waiting to see whether a trend towards slowing growth will continue, a shift that has not been helped by recent localized movement restrictions to cope with an increase in cases of the Delta variant of the new coronavirus.

"We expect both the manufacturing and services PMIs to moderate in August, given the widespread Delta variant and strict lockdown," said Barclays analysts in a note.

"With slowing growth momentum and dovish signals from the (People's Bank of China) meeting this week, we expect more easing, but still at a measured pace"

Oil was also in focus after energy firms suspended 1.74 million barrels per day of oil production in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico as Hurricane Ida slammed into the Louisiana coast as a Category 4 storm.

U.S. crude rose 0.86 percent to $69.34 a barrel. Brent crude rose 1.25 percent to $73.38 per barrel.

Gold was slightly higher, with the spot price gold was traded at $1,817.7863 per ounce, up 0.07 percent.

(Editing by Lincoln Feast.)