Asian stocks traded sideways on Tuesday, as concerns over the spread of the Delta variant and expectations of earlier tapering by the Federal Reserve offset strong corporate earnings, while gold and oil recovered after their sharp falls.
Markets were also cautious ahead of U.S. inflation numbers on Wednesday, which coming soon after strong jobs data, could fuel more speculation about the Fed’s bond-purchase taper.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was 0.17% higher in mid afternoon after trading most of the day in slight red territory, with China’s blue chip index CSI300 also recovering to be 0.43% higher, while South Korea’s KOSPI index was 0.64% weaker.
Other markets were set to open lower with S&P 500 futures dipping 0.12%, Euro STOXX 50 futures down 0.01% and FTSE futures off 0.15%.
“Equities have pretty much tracked sideways, but commodities are slightly weak and that’s partly reflecting COVID-19 uncertainty because cases seem to be increasing and background concerns of a slowdown in China,” said TD Securities Asia-Pacific strategist Prashant Newnaha.
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index was 0.78% higher, while the Shanghai Composite traded 0.42% higher, and Japan’s Nikkei was up 0.22%.
Gold prices also recovered, after touching a four-month low on Monday as strong U.S. jobs data bolstered expectations of an early tapering of the Federal Reserve’s economic support measures.
Gold was up on Tuesday morning in Asia. However, the yellow metal remained close to multi-month lows, thanks to a strengthening dollar and increasing bets that the U.S. Federal Reserve will begin asset tapering sooner than expected.
Gold futures gained 0.68% to $1,738.25 by 12:05 AM ET (4:05 AM GMT), after falling to their lowest since Mar. 31 on Monday. The dollar, which usually moves inversely to gold, inched up on Monday and remained near a more-than-two-week high.
U.S. Treasury yields rose to a more than three-week high as strong jobs data from the U.S. pointed towards an improving market. The latest U.S. jobs report, released during the previous week, said non-farm payrolls rose by 943,000 while the unemployment rate declined to 5.4% in July.
Fed officials also hinted that the central bank could begin returning to pre-COVID-19 settings earlier than expected.
Atlanta Fed Bank President Raphael Bostic said on Monday that asset tapering could begin as soon as the fourth quarter, but that it could begin even earlier if the jobs market maintains its recent pace of improvement.
Oil was up Tuesday morning in Asia, clawing back some losses from the previous session that saw the black liquid drop to a three-week low. However, fuel demand concerns remain as COVID-19 cases continue to increase.
Brent oil futures was up 0.42% to $69.33 by 12:31 AM ET (4:31 AM GMT), tumbling 2.3% on Monday. WTI futures gained 0.66% to $66.92 having slid 2.6% in the previous session.
China reported a record number of daily COVID-19 cases on Monday, as the world’s top oil importer attempts to bring this number down to zero. Restrictive measures have already been implemented in large parts of the country, which has, in turn, dampening the fuel demand outlook.
“Chinese mobility on roads and air traffic is down, so what traders are wondering now is whether or not other large oil-consuming and producing regions will start to see a China-like demobilization,” Macquarie Capital Oil & Gas Economist Vikas Dwivedi told Bloomberg.
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