Asian stocks set to rise on Fed policy, dollar hits two-year low

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Asian stocks were set to track an upbeat Wall Street session on Thursday after the Federal Reserve kept interest rates at ultra-low levels, while the U.S. dollar fell to a two-year low.

The Fed, on Wednesday, repeated a pledge to use its “full range of tools” to support the economy but cautioned that the outlook “will depend significantly on the course of the virus.”

“We’ll probably see a gain of 1%…later on this morning,” said CommSec market analyst Tom Piotrowski in Sydney. “The gains on Wall Street were helpful in that respect.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI on Wednesday ended 0.6% higher, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 1.24% and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 1.35%.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS rose 0.28%, while its global stock index .MIWD00000PUS, rose 0.81%.

Australian S&P/ASX 200 futures YAPcm1 were up 0.9% while Japan’s Nikkei 225 futures NKc1 were down 0.04%. The Nikkei 225 index .N225 closed down 1.15% at 22,397.11​​​​ on Wednesday. The futures contract is up 0.64% from that close.​

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index futures .HSI .HSIc1 rose 0.14%.

The dollar index against a basket of currencies =USD fell 0.44% to 93.42 on Wednesday after getting as low as 93.17, the weakest since June 2018.

The greenback has tumbled on expectations that the Fed will continue its ultra loose monetary policy for years to come and speculation that it will allow inflation to run higher than it has previously indicated before raising interest rates.

“Given what the Fed has already done and where things are right now, it’s really at the margins in terms of what more they can do,” CommSec’s Piotrowski said.

A more pressing issue for investors is what U.S. Congress does to further support the country’s economy, Piotrowski said, referring to negotiations over a new stimulus deal.

“If Congress does that to the satisfaction of the market, they’ll just drag the rest of the global markets higher with them,” Piotrowski said.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that his administration and Democrats in Congress were still “far apart” on a new coronavirus relief bill.

Among U.S. stocks to advance on Wednesday were Starbucks Corp (SBUX.O), which saw its business “steadily recovering,” and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD.O), which surged after it raised its revenue forecast. Boeing (BA.N) shares fell after a bigger-than-expected loss.

U.S. deaths from the novel coronavirus surpassed 150,000 on Wednesday, higher than any other country and nearly a quarter of the world’s total, according to a Reuters tally.

Australia has reported far fewer coronavirus cases than many other countries, with nearly 15,600 confirmed infections and 176 deaths as of Wednesday.

But a spike in community transmission in the most populous southeastern states of Victoria and New South Wales (NSW) has alarmed health officials just as the economy was reopening.

Australia has sent defense and emergency medical teams, usually deployed to disaster zones, to aged care homes in the city of Melbourne to help contain the country’s worst outbreak of the coronavirus.

In commodity markets, oil prices rose after a steep drop in U.S. crude inventories, but another record day for coronavirus cases worldwide kept gains in check.

Brent crude futures LCOc1 settled at $43.75 a barrel, up 53 cents, or 1.2%. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures CLc1 settled at $41.27 a barrel, gaining 23 cents, or 0.6%.

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