The Business Times

Asia: Markets extend gains after Wall Street record, eyes on US data

Published Mon, Mar 29, 2021 · 11:46 AM

[HONG KONG] Asian markets mostly rose on Monday, extending last week's positive finish and tracking a record-breaking lead from Wall Street as investors turn their focus to the economic recovery.

A below forecast reading on US prices on Friday provided support as it eased fears that inflation caused by an expected strong global rebound will force central banks to wind back their ultra-loose monetary policies or hike interest rates.

The week ahead will provide plenty for traders to get their teeth into including the release of key US jobs data for March and figures on manufacturing activity around the world.

President Joe Biden is also tipped to soon unveil the next leg of his economic recovery plan targeting infrastructure, which some suggest could come in around US$3 trillion. That comes just as his recently passed US$1.9 trillion stimulus begins to kick in.

Still, that is causing some concern as the bill for this will likely be paid for by higher taxes, while there is also a worry that it will add to upward pressure on prices. US Treasury bond yields - a guide to future interest rates - are already sitting around one-year highs.

Still, John Bilton, at JPMorgan Asset Management, said: "Inflation remains a persistent concern for investors. We expect headline inflation to be volatile in the second and third quarters, with the potential for some sticker shock as annualised base effects generate optically elevated year-on-year readings.


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"However, we believe that many of the secular disinflationary forces - globalisation, technology adoption, etcetera - continue to anchor core inflation so that even allowing for huge policy stimulus, inflation rates should remain contained in 2021."


Wall Street's three main indexes ended Friday on a strong note, with the Dow and S&P 500 ending at all-time highs.

Asia built on the rally with Tokyo up more than one per cent while Shanghai, Hong Kong, Seoul, Singapore, Taipei, Manila, Jakarta and Wellington all enjoyed healthy gains.

Sydney dipped, however, as Australian investors were spooked by news that Brisbane had been put into a three-day lockdown.

There appeared little impact from the blockage of the Suez Canal by a massive container ship, which is putting increasing strain on global trade including oil. Crude prices were slightly lower in early trade, though, having jumped more than four per cent Friday.

Optimism was also being supported by the success of vaccine rollouts in the United States and Britain, where infection rates are also slowing and officials move to ease some lockdown measures.

Even European markets were buoyant, despite the continent's stuttering inoculation drive and rising infections, thanks to some forecast-beating economic data.

But Axi strategist Stephen Innes said this week's data releases would be crucial to driving further gains.

"Given there is so much optimism in the economic reopening narrative baked into the price, it's hugely important this week's financial data, at minimum, meets expectations to maintain this ship on an even keel," he said in a note.

"But this could be a double-edged sword for pockets of the market as the combination of stimulus and robust data support equity prices. However, tech faces some challenges if the 'risk-on' signal manifests into higher real yields."


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