Asia stocks edge higher after Fed rate cut; Singapore shares open up 0.3%

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.2 per cent.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.2 per cent.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Asian shares rose on Thursday (Oct 31) and US stock futures edged higher after the US Federal Reserve cut interest rates as expected to keep economic expansion on track.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.2 per cent. Japan's Nikkei stock index rose 0.41 per cent, but Australian shares fell 0.24 per cent.

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index gained 10.55 points or 0.33 per cent to 3,218.47 as at 9.04am. Gainers outnumbered losers 80 to 44 after 54.4 million shares worth about $153.5 million changed hands.

US Treasury yields extended declines in Asia after the rate cut, but further declines may be limited as Fed Chairman Jerome Powell signalled additional rate cuts are unlikely because there are several areas of strength in the US economy.

The yen held steady versus the dollar before a Bank of Japan policy meeting later on Thursday. The BOJ is expected to keep its ultra-easy monetary policy in place, but the decision could be a close call.

Debate at the Fed and the BOJ highlights the struggle that many central banks are facing.

The US-China trade war and Britain's divorce from the European Union have increased uncertainty, but central banks are somewhat reluctant to ease policy aggressively because interest rates are already very low in many major economies.

"The biggest thing that stands out is stocks look stronger after the Fed," said Tsutomu Soma, general manager of fixed income business solutions at SBI Securities in Tokyo.

"Risks like US-China or Brexit haven't been resolved completely, but the markets are starting to look beyond these risks. The BOJ is likely on hold, so it will be difficult for currencies to react."

US stock futures nudged 0.07 per cent higher on Thursday in Asia after the S&P 500 rose 0.33 per cent to close at a record high on Wednesday for the second time in three trading sessions.

The Fed lowered its policy rate to 1.50 per cent-1.75 per cent, but dropped a previous reference in its statement to "act as appropriate" to sustain the economic expansion.

In his news conference, Powell listed several reasons why he feels the economy is doing well, such as robust consumer spending, strengthening home sales, and healthy asset prices.

The yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes fell to 1.7838 per cent in Asia on Thursday, while the two-year yield eased slightly to 1.6076 per cent.

The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies fell 0.22 per cent to 97.427, extending declines from Wednesday.

The yen was little changed at 108.80 per dollar as traders awaited the outcome of the BOJ meeting.

Japan's central bank may trim its consumer price forecasts but leave policy unchanged due to hopes that progress in scaling back a US-China trade dispute will give it room to save its dwindling policy tools.

Optimism that Washington and Beijing will sign a preliminary agreement to call a truce to their 16-month trade war was also a factor behind the Fed's decision to signal that further rate cuts are on hold, highlighting the importance of trade talks to global monetary policy.

In the energy market, oil futures extended declines on Thursday as a massive buildup in US crude stock piles reinforced concerns about oversupply in the world's energy markets.

US crude fell 0.29 per cent to US$54.90 per barrel.

Crude inventories, excluding the Strategic Petroleum Reserve SPR, rose 5.7 million barrels in the week to Oct. 25, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.

This blew past analysts' expectations for a 494,000-barrel build.