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Shares rally, euro up on ECB hopes

Aug 06 2012 08:05 Reuters

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Tokyo - Asian shares rallied to a three-month high and the euro touched a one-month peak against the dollar on Monday, as stronger-than-expected US jobs data and emerging optimism for European action on the debt crisis sharpened investor appetite for risk.

European stocks were likely to extend gains after surging to four-month highs on Friday, while US stock futures signalled a firmer Wall Street start. Financial spreadbetters called the main indexes in London, Paris and Frankfurt to open 0.4% higher.

But caution is likely to remain until concrete policy measures are taken, which may be weeks away, and investors in the near term will be looking to data out of China starting Thursday - from trade to bank loans and investment - to give the global economic outlook a further lift.

China's central bank on Sunday pledged to intensify monetary policy fine-tuning and improve credit policy to bolster the world's second largest economy, which has at best shown signs of stabilising rather than picking up briskly.

With the eurozone debt crisis hobbling global economic activity, Southeast Asia's largest economy, Indonesia, provided some relief as its economic growth surprisingly picked up in the second quarter of this year to underscore its resilience to the global slowdown.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 1.7% to its highest in three months, with Hong Kong shares rallying 2% to be among the region's top performers. Japan's Nikkei stock average jumped 2%.

"Time has come to shift funds to risk assets, as markets have very limited room for further downside from here," said Tetsu Emori, a Tokyo-based commodities fund manager at Astmax Investments.

"Investors may be questioning why they rushed to sell when the ECB and the Fed both have been saying they will take action when necessary. They never said they won't do anything."

Looking back, June might have marked the turning point when European policymakers agreed to a broad framework to shore up the region's troubled banks, and markets' sharp swings in the past month may have only helped consolidate the bottom, he said.

Investors re-evaluated the European Central Bank's statement after its policy meeting on Thursday which hinted at upcoming policy steps to contain surging borrowing costs in Spain.

Better-than-expected US jobs data spurred unwinding of safe-haven holdings in treasuries and the dollar while boosting global equities and oil on Friday. At the same time, a rise in the jobless rate left most economists still expecting further monetary stimulus from the Federal Reserve as soon as September.

"We think the likelihood of further central bank moves remains high, particularly in Europe ... this bodes well for risk," Barclays Capital analysts said in a research note.

The euro earlier on Monday rose to its highest since July 5 of $1.2444, while the dollar was at ¥78.41, off a two-week high of ¥78.77 hit on Friday when weakening safe-haven demand weighed on the yen.

"When you think about the fact that something positive will probably materialise even if it takes some time, the euro could see a bit of a rebound," said Hiroshi Maeba, head of FX trading Japan for UBS in Tokyo, referring to possible ECB measures.

Risk appetite returns

A rebound in riskier assets improved sentiment in Asian credit markets, narrowing the spread on the iTraxx Asia ex-Japan investment-grade index by 7 basis points.

Oil eased after rallying on Friday, with Brent down 0.3% at $108.62 a barrel and US crude futures down 0.1% at $91.28 a barrel.

As the dollar eased and the euro rose, spot gold inched up 0.3% to $1 607.56 an ounce.

"There is a greater degree of optimism in commodities surrounding the eurozone than 2-3 weeks ago," Michael Creed, an economist at the National Australia Bank.

The CBOE Volatility index, which measures expected volatility in the Standard & Poor's 500 index over the next 30 days, plunged 11% to close at 15.64 on Friday. Some analysts warned the VIX nearing the 13.70-15.30 support area has always provoked at least an interim reversal in trend.

Spain's economy minister told a newspaper on Sunday that Madrid has time to wait for clarity on what a full European rescue would involve as it has already covered the majority of its debt needs for the year.

Greece, which faces a €3.2bn bond maturity on August 20, is leaning towards issuing treasury bills to plug a cash squeeze this month, its deputy finance minister said, as Greece's international inspectors held their final verdict on Athens's budget cutting efforts until next month.

ecb  |  europe debt crisis  |  markets  |  euro
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