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Asia: Shares, US dollar firm, eyes on US data, Fed

Monday, March 28, 2016 - 08:53

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[TOKYO] The US dollar remained firm and Asian stocks edged higher on Monday after fairly strong consumer spending led to an upward revision in US economic growth in the fourth quarter, helping to underpin investor sentiment.

"As long as the US economic recovery is continuing, I would think the rally in global equity markets will continue," said Takeru Ogihara, chief strategist at Mizuho Trust Bank.

Japan's Nikkei gained 0.8 per cent while US stock futures ticked up 0.2 per cent in early Asian trade, though it is still slightly down on the quarter.

Share markets in Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong were closed for holidays, leaving MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan little moved in early trade.

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US gross domestic product increased at a 1.4 per cent annual rate in Oct-Dec, above the previously reported one per cent pace, the third GDP estimate showed on Friday.

With the US seen as one of the brightest spots in the global economy, signs of resilience there are pivotal to boosting market sentiment.

As investors' risk appetite recovers, the US dollar is also edging up against other major currencies.

The US dollar index against a basket of six major currencies rose to 96.394, its highest in almost two weeks.

The US dollar rose 0.2 per cent to 113.40 yen, keeping intact its steady recovery from its 6 1/2-month low of 110.67 hit on March 17.

The euro was slightly softer at US$1.1160, not far from Thursday's one-week low of US$1.1144.

In the past week, the US dollar has been helped by comments from some Fed officials indicating that policymakers think they could raise interest rates as early as next month.

US PCE inflation data due at 1230 GMT could fan expectations of an early rate move if it shows increasing inflationary pressure.

"The PCE inflation has been rising of late. The Fed has said the prices will be the key in determining policy so the data should attract a lot of attention," said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management.

The annual core PCE inflation rose 1.7 per cent in January, the fastest pace since July 2014.

The data will be followed by speech from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on the economic outlook and monetary policy on Tuesday. A few other Fed policymakers are also due to speak on the same day, making the Fed's policy the biggest focus for now.

Given that money markets are pricing in only about a 50 per cent chance of a rate hike in June, with hardly any significant likelihood in April factored in, signs of a tightening in the next quarter could rattle financial markets.

In the oil market, US crude futures gained 0.7 per cent to US$39.74 per barrel.

REUTERS

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