Asian shares edge up; investors anxious over earnings, Brexit

Swati Pandey, Reuters

Posted at Oct 24 2019 09:15 AM

Passersby are reflected on a stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan. Issei Kato, Reuters/file

SYDNEY -- Asian shares pulled ahead on Thursday with corporate earnings buffeting trading as investors remained anxious about the business impact of the Sino-US trade war while Brexit uncertainties kept overall sentiment in check.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.2 percent with Japan's Nikkei up 0.5 percent at a one-year high. Australian shares climbed 0.5 percent while South Korea's KOSPI inched 0.4 percent higher.

South Korea earlier reported third quarter growth slightly below expectations, though exports showed signs of recovery, while a private survey showed Japanese factory activity shrank at the fastest pace in over three years in October, hurt by slowing global demand and trade frictions.

On Wall Street overnight, the Dow and the Nasdaq added 0.2 percent each while the S&P 500 gained 0.3 percent.

Telsa shares jumped 21 percent in after-hours trading following a surprise third quarter profit.

Microsoft also posted forecast-beating profit and revenue numbers after the closing bell though the outlook was darkened by slower-than-expected take-up of its Azure cloud services.

Earlier, shares of US industrial bellwethers Boeing Co and Caterpillar Inc ended about 1 percent higher each despite big earnings misses.

RBC Capital Markets' chief economist Tom Porcelli pointed to consistently alarming headlines since the first quarter of 2018 suggesting poor Caterpillar earnings meant a recession was round the corner, though that has yet to transpire.

"We have been down this road before with CAT," Porcelli said in a note titled 'Still Waiting For Recession.'

"If you keep saying a recession is here, it is a mathematical certainty that at some point you will be right," he wrote. "Maybe try again after CAT's next quarterly earnings report."

So far, results from about 125 of the S&P500 companies are out with analysts expecting earnings to have declined 2.9 percent year-over-year, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Risk appetite was also aided by a ceasefire in northern Syria which resulted in the lifting of US sanctions against Turkey.

Later in the day, European and US manufacturing numbers are due while the European Central Bank meets, with no change to policy expected at President Mario Draghi's last meeting. Draghi will be replaced by Christine Lagarde.

Activity in the currency market was rather muted.

Sterling paused at $1.2918 after rising 0.3 percent on Wednesday with Brexit developments in focus.

Britain appears closer than ever to resolving its 3-1/2-year Brexit conundrum but there are still hurdles to clear.

EU member states on Wednesday delayed a decision on whether to grant Britain a three-month Brexit extension. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said if the deadline is deferred to the end of January, he would call an election.

"The Brexit battle looks like it will drag on," economists at ANZ wrote in a note.

"The UK government will not meet its current timetable of leaving the EU on 31 October, and an extension appears likely. In the meantime, Brexit uncertainty will keep weighing on UK business investment and activity."

The single currency was flat at $1.1135. The Japanese yen was a shade higher at 108.62 per dollar while the Australian dollar was barely changed at $0.6852.

That left the dollar index mostly unchanged at 97.461 against a basket of six major currencies.

In commodity markets, U.S. crude eased 30 cents to $55.67 while Brent slipped 28 cents to $60.89.

Gold was treading water at $1,492.5 an ounce.