| 15 April 2024, Monday |

Asia subdued by slow vaccinations, eye on factory surveys

After a turbulent week in which pessimism for global economy waxed and faded with every new report on the Delta variant, Asian stock markets were quiet on Friday.

A series of July factory surveys are expected to reveal only a minor easing of activity in Europe and the United States after reaching record highs, while Asia appears to be more vulnerable.

“The global economic expansion is pushing forward—albeit more tentatively than a month ago—despite headwinds from the Delta strain of the COVID-19 virus,” said Sara Johnson, executive director of global economics at IHS Markit.

“Outlooks in advanced countries with high vaccination rates remain bright, but near-term prospects in emerging and developing countries with low vaccination rates are murkier.”

That diverging outlook was reflected in MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan which slipped 0.6%, leaving it down 1.4% on the week so far.

Japan’s Nikkei was closed for a holiday, but off 1.7% for the week and a whisker away from a seven-month trough.

Chinese blue chips lost 1.2%, though remained well within their tight trading range of the past three weeks.

Wall Street was in a better mood after a run of strong earnings, with Nasdaq futures up 0.3% and S&P 500 futures 0.2%. EUROSTOXX 50 futures also firmed 0.2%, while FTSE futures gained 0.3%.

Investors are now looking ahead to the Federal Reserve’s policy meeting next week where more discussion about tapering is expected, though Chair Jerome Powell has repeatedly said the labour market remains well short of target.

He also still argues that the recent spike in inflation will prove fleeting, which may be one reason bond markets have been rallying so hard. Yields on U.S. 10-year notes were last at 1.28%, having hit a five-month low of 1.128% early in the week.

German 10-year bonds performed even better, with yields dropping seven basis points so far this week to -0.42%, the lowest since mid-February.

The rally was helped by a dovish tilt from the European Central Bank overnight when it pledged not to raise rates until inflation was sustainably at its 2% target.

“Currently the ECB is forecasting inflation at 1.4% in 2023, and it anticipates a very gradual recovery towards target thereafter,” noted analysts at ANZ.

“The guidance implies the ECB will not get caught up in future global tightening cycles unless it is justified by euro area dynamics. The policy puts the ECB at the dovish end of the global central bank hawkometer.”

That outlook has contributed to a steady decline in the euro to $1.1771 , near the four-month trough of $1.1750 touched earlier in the week. This helped lift the dollar index to its highest since early March, and it was last at 92.818 .

The euro has also been struggling against the safe-haven Japanese yen and hit its lowest in four months this week before steadying at 129.68 yen . With all the action in the euro, the dollar has been relatively steadier on the yen at 110.24 .

In commodity markets, gold dipped to $1,802 an ounce and was 0.4% easier on the week. Base metals have fared much better as strong demand meets restricted supply.

Oil prices have also been buoyed by speculation demand will outpace supply in coming months even after OPEC+ agreed to expand production.

Brent was last off 27 cents at $73.52 a barrel, after jumping overnight, while U.S. crude lost 25 cents to $71.66 per barrel.

  • Reuters