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Asia shares eye all-time high on global growth cheer

[SYDNEY] Asian stocks struck a fresh decade high on Wednesday as risk appetites were whetted by a bevy of upbeat manufacturing surveys that confirmed a synchronised upturn in world growth was well under way.

Activity was especially strong in Europe, lifting bond yields there and driving the euro to within a whisker of its highest in three years against a beleaguered US dollar.

Investors also piled into emerging market trades. MSCI's index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged up another 0.1 per cent, having jumped 1.4 per cent on Tuesday in its best performance since last March.

The index is creeping ever closer to the all-time peak of 591.50 reached in late 2007. South Korean stocks were up for the fourth session running, while Japan's Nikkei remained closed for holidays.

Wall Street started the new year as it ended the old, scoring another set of record closing peaks. The Dow rose 0.42 per cent, while the S&P 500 gained 0.83 per cent and the Nasdaq 1.5 per cent.

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Apple, Facebook, Alphabet and Microsoft pulled the technology index up 1.4 per cent, following a 37-per cent surge in 2017 that made it the best-performing S&P sector.

The gains in riskier assets came as industry surveys from India to Germany to Canada showed quickening activity.

"The breadth of the recovery is extraordinary," said Deutsche Bank macro strategist Alan Ruskin, noting that of 31 countries covered, only three failed to show growth while all the largest manufacturing sectors improved.

"The global economy and risky assets are now solidly into a virtuous cycle, whereby growth is propelling risky assets like equities higher, that are then supporting growth," he added. "This is not a global economy in need of the extraordinary emergency style policies pursued by the likes of the ECB and Band of Japan."

Indeed, with euro zone factories expanding at their fastest pace in more than two decades, speculation is rampant that the European Central Bank will start to wind down its asset buying programme later this year.

As a result, yields on 10-year German paper climbed 4 basis points to a two-month top at 0.467 per cent, which in turn pushed up rates across the European periphery.

Spanish yields, for instance, have risen 16 basis points in just three sessions to reach 1.616 per cent.

The prospect that other major central banks could play catch up with the Federal Reserve on tightening undermined the dollar, which sank to three-month trough against its peers.

The euro stretched to a four-month top of US$1.2082, adding to its 2017 gains of 14 per cent. It was last at US$1.2061 and bulls were eyeing its September peak of US$1.2092, a break of which would return to ground last trod in early 2015.

The single currency has already reached a two-year high on the yen at 135.40, while the dollar was lagging far behind at 112.26 yen.

The weakness of the dollar was a positive for commodities priced in the currency.

Spot gold added 0.2 per cent to US$1,320.74 per ounce, having reached its highest since mid-September.

Oil prices hit their highest since mid-2015, only to stall when major pipelines in Libya and the UK restarted and US production soared to the strongest in more than four decades.

Brent crude futures were yet to trade at US$66.57 a barrel, while US crude futures nudged up 5 cents to US$60.42 a barrel.


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