Business Maverick

Business Maverick

Asia stocks stage relief rally, earnings in focus: markets wrap

Asia stocks stage relief rally, earnings in focus: markets wrap
(Photo: Unsplash / S&P logo)

Asian stocks advanced, as the focus shifted from Middle East tensions to company earnings and economic data for insight into the direction of central bank policy.  

Benchmarks across the region recouped some of last week’s slide as traders took comfort in the absence of further escalation from Iran following Israel’s retaliatory strike. Hong Kong rallied more than 2%, with measures from Chinese authorities to bolster the city’s status as a financial hub giving an added boost. 

Demand for safe havens eased, after traders last week were whipsawed by Middle East tensions as well as hawkish comments from Federal Reserve officials indicating reluctance to cut rates anytime soon. Oil and gold both fell. The dollar was weaker while the yield on 10-year US Treasury yields advanced. 

“We are seeing a relief rally underway this morning as geopolitical risks subside,” said Kyle Rodda, a senior market analyst at Capital.com in Melbourne. “The move basically squares the ledger now and allows the markets to go back to focus on macroeconomic and corporate fundamentals.” 

Contracts for US equities edged higher after the S&P 500 recorded its worst week since March 2023. Asian chip stocks also slumped after Nvidia tumbled 10% on Friday, the most in four years.   

Investors are recalibrating their positions after stronger-than-expected US data forced the Fed to reset the clock on its first interest rate cut. Data prints later in the week are likely to help finesse policy bets, with both US growth and the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation due. Investors must also absorb a hefty slate of Treasuries auctions, a major test of whether yields have peaked for the year.  

Higher-than-expected interest rates amid persistent inflation are perceived as the biggest threat to financial stability among market participants and observers, the Fed said in its semiannual Financial Stability Report published on Friday.

More than half of the “Magnificent Seven” cohort of tech megacaps will report earnings this week — leaving investors wondering whether those firms are going to live up to the high expectations set for artificial intelligence. “Nevertheless, this may offer market participants the opportunity to watch for any signs of weakness in rallies to sell the rip.” 

“This week will present a slew of big tech earnings, which has the tendency to crush earnings expectations,” said Jun Rong Yeap, a market strategist at IG Asia.  

Profits for the seven biggest growth companies in the S&P 500 — Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp., Alphabet Inc., Amazon.com Inc., Nvidia, Meta Platforms Inc. and Tesla Inc. — are on course to surge 38% in the first quarter, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. When excluding them, the rest of the benchmark index’s profits are anticipated to shrink by 3.9%. 

Elsewhere this week, inflation readings in Australia and Malaysia are due. Bank Indonesia will give a policy decision just as the currency comes under pressure, while earnings at global growth bellwether Caterpillar are due.

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