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China gains, auto sector lift Asian shares, but sentiment fragile

Published 05/28/2019, 02:30 AM
Updated 05/28/2019, 02:30 AM
© Reuters. Pedestrians are reflected on an electronic board showing stock prices outside a brokerage in Tokyo

By Andrew Galbraith

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Asian shares rose on Tuesday, lifted by gains in China and as auto firms climbed on merger news, but broad uncertainties over trade and economic growth kept investor enthusiasm in check.

European equity markets were expected to open higher. In early European trade, pan-region Euro Stoxx 50 futures were up 0.39% at 3,365, German DAX futures were up 0.39% at 12,112, FTSE futures were up 0.5% at 7,299.5, and France's CAC 40 futures were up 0.41% at 5,319.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.38%, and U.S. S&P 500 e-mini futures rose 0.22% to 2,837.25, pointing to gains when U.S. markets reopen on Tuesday after a holiday.

Despite the day's gains, Joanne Goh, Asia equity strategist at DBS in Singapore, said broad market sentiment remained uncertain ahead of a possible meeting between the Chinese and U.S. presidents at the G20 summit next month.

"There's still a lack of direction in the markets in terms of all the different asset classes," she said.

"You actually see Chinese bond yields are ticking up, but that shouldn't be the case because we are expecting stimulus and bond yields should start to come off...there's quite a lot of uncertainty in the markets right now."

Chinese blue-chips climbed 0.61% a day after data showed Chinese industrial firms' profits shrank in April, which could prompt more government stimulus to support the slowing economy.

A planned increase in the weighting of Chinese A-shares in MSCI indexes after the market close later on Tuesday also boosted shares.Seoul's KOSPI added 0.37%, while Australian shares gained 0.45%. Japan's Nikkei stock index finished 0.37% higher.

In China's debt markets, 10-year government bond futures for September delivery, the most-traded contract, rebounded 0.34% on Tuesday having dropped as much as 0.71% the day before, after China's takeover of a troubled bank sparked concerns of wider financial risks.

"With economic indicators mixed and trade war risks lingering, the bias is still tilted towards loose monetary policy to cushion growth. We think that the rise in longer-term (Chinese) govvie...yields is probably not warranted," DBS analysts said in a note.

The equity market gains in Asia followed a relatively light session in Europe on Monday, with UK and U.S. financial markets closed for holidays.

European auto shares had rallied after Italian-American carmaker Fiat Chrysler confirmed it had made a "transformative merger" proposal to French peer Renault (PA:RENA) in a deal that would create the world's third-biggest carmaker. That sector rally spilled into Asia with Mitsubishi Motors Corp in Japan adding 5.95% and Nissan Motor Co gaining 2.31%.

Shares in Hong Kong-listed Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd jumped 5.47%.​ Provisional results from EU elections also buoyed markets after pro-union parties kept a firm grip on power in elections to the European Parliament. The pan-European STOXX 600 added 0.22%.

"Although Eurosceptic and anti-establishment parties didn't win as many seats as expected, their influence has increased significantly. This could have implications for the political color of key EU positions," said Rodrigo Catril, senior FX strategist at National Australia Bank.

"The Parliament composition is also likely to have implications on the priority agenda for future EU reform, particularly with respect to things like immigration, fiscal spending and fiscal union," he added, noting a decrease in bond yields pointed to continued risk aversion.

The yield on benchmark 10-year German Bunds fell to -0.147% on Monday, its lowest since September 2016.

On Tuesday, U.S. yields were also lower. Benchmark 10-year Treasury notes yielded 2.3097%. The two-year yield touched 2.1724%.

Trade worries remain high on investors' list of concerns. U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday that Washington was not ready to make a deal with Beijing but he expected one in the future, while at the same time pressing Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to even out a trade imbalance with the United States.

The dollar was flat against the yen at 109.50, and fell 0.13% against the euro, with the common currency buying $1.1182.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major rivals, was 0.17% higher at 97.782.

In commodity markets, oil prices extended gains after rising more than 1% on Monday on tensions in the Middle East and OPEC-led supply cuts, as well as continuing Russian supply disruptions after a contamination problem discovered last month.

Brent crude 0.29% higher at $70.31 per barrel, having earlier dipped below the $70 mark, and U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude added 1.16% to $59.31 per barrel.

Spot gold was down 0.12% at $1,283.30 per ounce.

© Reuters. Pedestrians are reflected on an electronic board showing stock prices outside a brokerage in Tokyo

Bitcoin, which on Monday touched $8,939.18, its highest in more than a year, was down 0.55% at $8,722.61. The cryptocurrency topped $8,000 for the first time since July 2018 on May 13.

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