Wednesday 05:00 GMT
Data-fuelled optimism helped lift equities for a second day in Asia as Japanese investors cheered the weaker yen after the US dollar hit new 14-year highs. With few significant events on the regional calendar for Wednesday, it was left to overnight gains on Wall Street to set the tone
Is it too early to start talking about Friday’s US non-farm payrolls data? Caution ahead of the all-important jobs report was cited by New York market followers on Tuesday as a reason the dollar came off its highs.
With the actions of president-elect Donald Trump still an unknown until his inauguration later this month, markets are left to focus on what they do know — namely economic figures. Following a string of strong data, expectations are that about 185,000 jobs will have been added last month.
Tokyo played catch-up as the stock market opened for its first day of trading this year. The benchmark Topix index was 2.2 per cent higher at 1,5552.3. The standout performer was Takata, the airbag maker whose faulty products forced carmakers into recalls across the globe. Its shares jumped 17.5 per cent to Y1007, a 14-month month high, on hopes it is nearing a settlement with US authorities.
In Sydney the S&P/ASX 200 stood flat at 5,754.5 — bang on the cusp of a bull market, having risen just about 20 per cent from its lows of February last year.
Currencies were all about the dollar. Its widely followed trade-weighted index reached 103.8 on Tuesday in the US for a 14-year high. In Asia, traders appeared to give up on early attempts to push it back up there: after a 0.6 per cent fall overnight, it stood at 103.3, 0.4 per cent off that peak.
The easing dollar left the yen hovering around Y118 and allowed the Chinese renminbi to reach near-two-week highs offshore, at Rmb6.938, its strongest since December 22.
Malaysian ringgit traders shrugged off the weaker dollar, however, pushing the ringgit through the psychologically important 4.5 level against the greenback for the first time since the 1998 Asian financial crisis.
Oil traders were looking ahead to US stockpiles data due later in the day, and expected to show a decline in supplies. Benchmark contracts moved higher ahead of the data, with Brent up 43 cents at $55.90 a barrel in Asia.
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