Shares rise on sustained policy hopes

2012-08-07 08:28

Tokyo - Asian shares gained on Tuesday as investors maintained the hope that Europe will take further action to tackle its debt crisis and the United States and China will adopt stimulus measures to support recovery.

European stocks were likely to open mixed after closing at their highest level in more than four months on Monday while US stock futures signalled a solid Wall Street start after hitting a three-month high on Monday.

Financial spreadbetters called the main indexes in London , Paris and Frankfurt to open between a 0.1% drop and a 0.1% rise.

"Europe's turmoil is starting to subside somewhat and that is helping," said Lonsec senior client adviser Michael Heffernan.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan added 0.3% to a three-month high, led by a 0.5% gain in Australian shares and the index's materials sector. Japan's Nikkei stock average rose 0.7%.

The Reserve Bank of Australia kept interest rates steady at 3.5% as expected after cutting rates in May and June, helping to boost the Australian dollar to a four-and-a-half month high of $1.0603. Aussie last traded at $1.0582.

"Overall they sound reasonably comfortable and easing in the near term is probably off the agenda," said Michael Turner, strategist at RBC Capital Markets.

Sentiment improved as yields in Spain and Italy inched lower on Monday on expectations the European Central Bank will follow through with last week's statement which hinted at upcoming policy steps to contain Madrid's borrowing costs.

"The bid to risk is likely to be sustained in coming weeks on the back of attractive valuations and market anticipation of policy action out of Europe, China and even the US," Morgan Stanley said in a research note.

Asian credit markets firmed, with the spread on the iTraxx Asia ex-Japan investment-grade index narrowing by 3 basis points.

The euro steadied at $1.2390, having hit a one-month high of $1.2444 on Monday.

Oil eased, with Brent down 0.2% at $109.39 a barrel and US crude off 0.3% at $91.90. Gold steadied at $1 611.46 an ounce.


Investors will now be turning to data from China due on Thursday, including industrial production, retail sales and inflation, for signs of whether the world's second-largest economy can pick up momentum in the second half of the year from a lacklustre first half.

"I am not encouraging people to be in resources. It is nice to see some gains but if you look at the medium-term outlook for commodities, it is not all that flash," Heffernan said, citing a slower growth profile for China, Australia's biggest market.

Others note that as risk appetite improves, currencies of economies perceived to be performing relatively better could come under pressure to strengthen which in turn could risk stifle growth momentum.

"Australia is a typical example of this ... It means that they will be more reluctant than they used to, to see their currency shoot through the roof," said Sebastian Galy, strategist at Societe General.

The RBA said in its statement on Tuesday that the Australian dollar remains high despite a drop in the terms of trade.

"It is not a surprise but the fact they are raising it is interesting," said Stephen Walters, Chief economist at JPMorgan.

Possibly reflecting a gradual increase in confidence for Europe to deal with its debt crisis, Morgan Stanley's filing showed on Monday its net exposure to five troubled eurozone nations - Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain - spiked 73% in the second quarter.

Morgan Stanley reduced hedges against the risk that those exposures might turn into losses. At the same time it significantly cut its exposure to France, flipping to a net short position against French sovereign bonds.

This comes after Europe agreed to a broad framework to shore up the region's troubled banks in late June.