Asia stocks rise as trade optimism extends Wall Street’s bull run

August 30, 2018 - 9:31 AM
Traders work at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in Manhattan, New York, U.S., August 27, 2018. (Reuters/Andrew Kelly)

TOKYO — Asian stocks rose on Thursday as Wall Street hit record highs in the hope that the current North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations will lead to a further easing of global trade tensions.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan nudged up 0.1 percent.

Australian stocks added 0.15 percent, and Japan’s Nikkei rose to a three-month high, last trading up 0.45 percent. South Korea’s KOSPI was little changed.

U.S. shares extended their rally on Wednesday, with the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq hitting record highs for a fourth straight session as technology stocks pushed indexes higher and promising NAFTA negotiations boosted investor confidence.

The leaders of the United States and Canada expressed optimism on Wednesday that NAFTA negotiations would meet a Friday deadline for a deal.

Canada rejoined the talks to modernise the 24-year-old NAFTA after Mexico and the United States announced a bilateral trade deal on Monday, which had helped global equities begin the week on the front foot.

“Recent NAFTA negotiations have helped clear some of the uncertainty the markets had been feeling, leading to hopes U.S.-China trade tensions will take a turn for the better,” said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management.

The White House has said it wants to settle NAFTA before negotiating with China.

The deadline for public comment on U.S. President Donald Trump’s tariffs on another $200 billion of Chinese goods is on Sept. 5, with the new measures possibly taking effect next month.

Risk sentiment improved in other parts of the globe. The pound surged as fears a ‘hard Brexit’ eased after the European Union’s chief exit negotiator signalled an accommodative stance towards London in ongoing talks.

Sterling rose to a 3-1/2-week high $1.3035, extending its gains after surging more than 1 percent overnight.

The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies struggled near a four-week low of 94.434 plumbed on Tuesday, weighed by the pound’s rally.

The greenback has also been on the defensive this week with safe-haven demand for the currency diminishing in the wake of improving risk sentiment in broader markets.

The euro was steady at $1.1709 after edging up 0.1 percent the previous day. The dollar was flat at 111.68 yen after rising 0.4 percent overnight.

The foreign exchange market still kept a wary eye on the Turkish lira, which fell roughly 3 percent to a two-week low on Wednesday amid lingering concerns about the country’s currency crisis.

Other struggling emerging market currencies also drew attention, with Argentina’s peso slumping overnight to a record low versus the dollar as investor confidence in President Mauricio Macri evaporated.

The International Monetary Fund said it was studying a request from Argentina to speed up disbursement of a $50 billion loan programme with the peso collapsing.

In commodities, U.S. crude futures rose 0.25 percent to $69.68 per barrel.

Oil contracts had risen more than 1 percent on Wednesday, supported by a drawdown in U.S. crude and gasoline stocks and as U.S. sanctions reduced Iranian crude shipments. — Reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro; Editing by Eric Meijer