Business Maverick

Business Maverick

Asian stocks rise as yen, won begin to reverse dip: markets wrap

Asian stocks rise as yen, won begin to reverse dip: markets wrap
Flags outside the Exchange Square Complex, which houses the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, in Hong Kong, China, on Tuesday, 23 January 2024.

Stocks in Asia rose on Thursday as pushback from authorities against a stronger dollar helped stabilize currencies and restored a sense of confidence in the region’s financial markets.

The yen and won gained against the dollar following a joint statement from US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen alongside the finance ministers of Japan and South Korea that noted “serious concerns” about the depreciation of the two Asian currencies. 

“The US has effectively given the nod on intervention,” said Keiichi Iguchi, a senior strategist at Resona Holdings Inc. in Tokyo. “This has increased speculation that a coordinated intervention is a possibility.”

An index of the dollar fell for a second day. Treasuries were little changed after a Wednesday rally that wiped eight basis points from the 10-year yield. The offshore yuan was steady after the People’s Bank of China reiterated that it wants to prevent risk of the exchange rate overshooting, according to a statement posted on WeChat. 

Equities in China, Japan, Australia and South Korea all rose. A global gauge of equities ticked higher, placing the benchmark on track for its first advance since Thursday last week.

US equity futures were higher after the S&P 500 fell for a fourth day Wednesday, the longest losing streak since January. The benchmark has now fallen more than 4% from last month’s record high. The tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 fell 1.2% on Wednesday with Nvidia Corp. leading losses among US megacaps. 

Chip stocks

Traders will be closely watching Asian chipmakers such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., which reports earnings later on Thursday, and Tokyo Electron. Europe’s most valuable tech firm ASML Holding NV said on Wednesday orders tumbled in the first quarter, and its China sales are likely to be hampered by US export control measures. 

ASML’s earnings are “a little bit of a warning shot across the bow ahead of some of the megatech stocks which are reporting next week,” said Tony Sycamore, a market analyst at IG Australia in Sydney. “There could be a little bit of nerves creeping into semiconductor stocks.” 

Metal stocks advanced in South Korea and Australia after President Joe Biden called for higher tariffs on imports of Chinese steel and aluminum. 

Elsewhere, Micron Technology Inc., the largest US maker of computer-memory chips, is poised to get more than $6-billion in grants from the Commerce Department to help pay for domestic factory projects, according to people familiar with the matter. It’s part of an effort to bring semiconductor production back to American soil. 

Just a day after Jerome Powell threw cold water on rate-cut bets, dip buyers emerged in the Treasury market on Wednesday, with two-year yields dropping further below 5% and a $13-billion sale of 20-year bonds drawing solid demand.

“The US central bank remains on track to cut rates twice this year, most likely starting at its September meeting,” said Solita Marcelli, chief investment officer for the Americas at UBS Group AG’s wealth management unit. “This means the return outlook for quality bonds remains positive and attractive, and that recent losses in fixed income are likely to be temporary.” 

In Asia, data set for release includes machine tool orders in Japan and Hong Kong unemployment. Markets are closed in Vietnam. The unemployment rate in Australia rose, reflecting restrictive policy settings.

Elsewhere, oil held most of Wednesday’s 3% decline, weighed by weaker Chinese industrial data and as US crude inventories swelled, while gold edged higher.

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