Friday, October 9, 2015

Asian stocks shine as Fed minutes confirm no urgency to tighten policy

Asian shares rose on Friday, taking their cue from a jump in oil prices as well as gains on Wall Street after minutes of the Federal Reserve's latest meeting led investors to further pare bets that the central bank will hike interest rates this year.

Oil prices climbed to their highest in three months on Thursday, after forecaster PIRA Energy Group predicted crude prices would rise to $70 per barrel by the end of 2016.

Crude oil futures extended overnight gains, with Brent adding 0.4 per cent to $53.28 a barrel, while U.S. crude was 0.5 per cent higher at $49.66.

The Fed minutes revealed the extent to which policymakers are concerned that a global economic slowdown might threaten the U.S. economic outlook. Though they said overseas turmoil had not "materially altered" economic prospects, they opted to hold interest rates steady last month.

"When the dust settled the message for the market was that the FOMC was pretty confident on the robustness of the U.S. economy and saw room for 2015 lift-off, but no imperative to do so if fragility persisted," Steven Englander, global head of currency strategy at Citi, said in a note.

Riskier asset markets, which had risen when the Fed held off raising rates in September, got a further boost on confirmation policy makers won't rush to tighten rates at a time of slackening global growth.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.7 per cent in early trading, on track for a robust weekly gain of 5.7 per cent.

The S&P 500 closed at a seven-week high on Thursday, though S&P 500 e-mini futures edged down about 0.1 per cent in early Asian trading.

Japan's Nikkei stock index added 1 percent, poised to gain 3.4 per cent for the week.

The dollar withered in line with fading near-term rate-hike expectations, with the dollar index down about 0.1 per cent in early Asian trade, on track for a weekly loss of 0.6 per cent.

The euro rose about 0.1 per cent to $1.1285 after scaling a three-week peak of $1.1328 on Thursday, while the dollar was steady against its Japanese counterpart at 119.91 yen .

Gold added about 0.1 per cent to $1,140.01 an ounce, on track for a weekly gain of about 0.2 per cent, after volatile trading in the wake of the Fed minutes. A delayed hike to interest rates could support gold in the near term.

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