Sydney — Japanese shares hit highs not seen since 1990 on Monday as strong earnings and offshore demand fuelled a three-week winning streak, while the yuan was nudged higher by China’s central bank.
Japan’s Nikkei was back to steady after finally breaking its September peak, and is up 8.8% for the month so far, with the Topix not far behind.
Financial shares led the gains on Monday as investors prepare for an eventual end to negative rates, while carmakers have been benefiting from a weak yen and high exports.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged up 0.1%, having climbed 2.8% last week to a two-month high.
The Black Friday sales will test the pulse of the consumer-driven US economy this week, while the Thanksgiving holiday will make for thin markets.
There were media reports Israel, the US and Hamas have reached a tentative agreement to free dozens of hostages in Gaza in exchange for a five-day pause in fighting, but no confirmation yet.
Chinese blue chips dipped 0.2% as the country’s central bank held rates steady as widely expected, but set a firm fix for the yuan that caused the dollar to slip under 7.2000 to a three-month low.
Euro Stoxx 50 futures added 0.1%, while FTSE futures were a fraction firmer.
S&P 500 futures eased 0.1% and Nasdaq futures lost 0.2%. The S&P is up nearly 18% for the year and less than 2% away from its July peak.
Yet analysts at Goldman Sachs note the “Magnificent 7” megacap stocks have returned 73% for the year so far, compared with just 6% for the remaining 493 firms.
“We expect the megacap tech stocks will continue to outperform given their superior expected sales growth, margins, reinvestment ratios, and balance sheet strength,” they wrote in a note. “But the risk-reward profile is not especially compelling given elevated expectations.”
Tech major Nvidia reports quarterly results on Tuesday, and all eyes will be on the state of demand for its AI-related products.
The flow of US economic data turns to a trickle this week, but minutes of the Federal Reserve’s most recent meeting will offer some colour on policymakers’ thinking as they held rates steady for a second time.
Markets have all but priced out the risk of a further hike in December or next year, and imply a 30% chance of an easing starting in March. Futures also imply about 100 basis points of cuts for 2024, up from 77 basis points before the benign October inflation report shook markets.
That outlook helped bonds rally, with 10-year Treasury yields at 4.45% having dropped 19 basis points last week and away from October’s 5.02% high.
It also dragged the US dollar down almost 2% on a basket of currencies last week, and helped the euro up to $1.0918, having jumped 2.1% last week.
The dollar even lost ground to the low-yielding yen, last down 0.4% at 149.08 and short of its recent top of 151.92. Expectations of another strong wage round and of a high reading for core inflation later this week has stirred more chatter about an eventual tightening by the Bank of Japan.
Futures data showed speculative accounts have expanded their short yen positioning to the highest level since April 2022, suggesting a risk those positions could be squeezed out.
Closely watched surveys of European manufacturing are due this week and any hint of weakness will encourage more wagers on early rate cuts from the European Central Bank.
“These surveys will be very important about the Euro area services sector given the sharp deterioration seen recently,” said analysts at NAB. “If another soft print eventuates, expect pricing for ECB cuts to extend beyond the current 100 bps of cuts being priced for 2024.”
Markets imply about a 70% chance of an easing as soon as April, even though many ECB officials are still talking of the need to keep policy tight for longer.
Sweden’s central bank meets this week and may hike again, given high inflation and the weakness of its currency.
In commodity markets, oil rebounded from four-month lows on Friday amid speculation Opec+ will extend, or increase, its production cuts into next year.
Brent added 58c to $81.19 a barrel, while US crude firmed 49c to $76.38 per barrel.
Gold was slightly firmer at $1,982 an ounce, having climbed 2.2% last week.