SYDNEY ⸺ Asian share markets lagged behind on Thursday as U.S. stock futures hit new peaks after the Federal Reserve underlined its commitment to keeping policy super loose even as the economy enjoys a rapid recovery.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan inched up 0.2% in very quiet trade. Moves were modest across the region with Chinese blue chips up 0.1% and South Korea dead flat.
Japan’s Nikkei slipped 0.3%, not helped by news Tokyo’s governor had asked for emergency measures to stem a surge of COVID-19 infections.
The outperformance of the U.S. economy helped S&P 500 futures climb 0.4% to a new high, while Nasdaq futures gained 0.7%. EUROSTOXX 50 futures firmed 0.4% and FTSE futures 0.3%.
Minutes of the Federal Reserve’s last policy meeting showed members felt the economy was still far short of target and were in no rush to scale back their $120 billion a month of bond buying.
Fed Chairman Jerome Powell speaks at an IMF event later on Thursday and is likely to reiterate the dovish outlook.
“This discussion is consistent with our view that it will be later this year before the Fed starts talking about talking about tapering, with actual changes to the purchase pace not occurring until Q1 2022,” said analysts at JPMorgan.
“Fed officials generally viewed the recent rise in longer-term Treasury yields as reflecting an improving outlook and some firming of inflation expectations, and not a risk to the outlook.”
Yields on 10-year Treasuries have since eased back a little to 1.669%, from the recent 14-month top of 1.776%, but have struggled to break under 1.59%.
The pullback coincided with a dip in the dollar index to 92.382, from its recent five-month high at 93.439. The dollar was likewise holding at 109.70 yen, having faded from its recent one-year peak of 110.96.
The euro was steady at $1.1874, after reaching as high as $1.1914 overnight following a surprisingly upbeat survey of European Union business activity.
“Improved virus and growth expectations have spurred consumer and business confidence, driving up both domestic and global demand for manufactured products,” said analysts at Barclays in a note.
“This phenomenon is broad-based across European economies.”
In commodity markets, gold was idling at $1,738 an ounce after meeting resistance around $1,745.
Oil prices slipped, but were still within a narrow trading band that has held for the last two weeks or so.
Brent fell 33 cents to $62.83 a barrel, while U.S. crude lost 37 cents to $59.40 per barrel.
Reporting by Wayne Cole; Aditional reporting by Chibuike Oguh; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa and Jacqueline Wong; Reuters