Asian shares rise to 3-week high ahead of Powell's testimony

By Reuters   February 26, 2018 | 05:32 pm PT
Asian shares rise to 3-week high ahead of Powell's testimony
A man is reflected in an electronic stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan February 9, 2018. Photo by Reuters
Yet, investors are worried rising dollar funding costs could bode ill for potential borrowers.

Asian shares extended their recovery on Tuesday, hitting a three-week high as U.S. borrowing costs eased ahead of Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell's highly-anticipated first congressional testimony later in the day.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.3 percent, building on its bounce from a two-month low touched on Feb 9.

Japan's Nikkei rose 1.0 percent to three-week highs.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 advanced 1.18 percent on Monday helped by fall in U.S. bond yields.

The 10-year U.S. Treasuries yield eased to 2.864 percent, dropping further from its four-year peak of 2.957 percent touched on Feb 21, driven by month-end buying as well as position adjustments ahead of Powell's testimony.

Powell's debut appearance is seen as critical for financial markets at a time when many investors are nervous about the Fed's policy normalisation following years of stimulus after the financial crisis almost a decade ago.

Many expect the Fed to raise interest rates three to four times this year, as policy makers look to prevent an overheating of the economy especially as growth is set to get another boost from the Trump administration's tax cuts and spending plans.

Yet, investors are worried rising dollar funding costs could bode ill for potential borrowers, including U.S. home buyers and some emerging market companies.

MSCI's gauge of equity market performance in 47 countries gained 0.82 percent on Monday, rising above its Feb 16 high to hit it a three week top.

Still, it is down 2.4 percent so far this month, suggesting its record 15-month winning streak that began in November 2016 is at risk.

"The combination of low interest, low inflation and strong economic growth, the best combination for markets that also kept market volatilities low, is coming to an end," said Mutsumi Kagawa, chief global strategist at Rakuten Securities,

He said that while corporate earnings will likely remain strong for a while longer, underpinning stocks, market volatility will be higher.

In the currency market, the euro traded at $1.23145, off its three-year high of $1.2556 hit earlier this month.

The dollar traded at 106.98 yen, stabilising for now above its 15-month low of 105.545 set on Feb 16.

Fed funds rate futures were almost fully pricing in a rate hike at the Fed's next policy meeting on March 20-21.

Oil prices held firm at three-week highs, supported by strong U.S. demand and comments from Saudi Arabia that it would continue to curb production in line with OPEC-led efforts.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate futures fetched $64.00, up slightly on Tuesday, after hitting a 20-day high of $64.24 the previous day.

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