Asian shares encouraged by Wall Street record, await Fed outlook

People walk past an electric quotation board flashing the Nikkei key index of the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) in front of a securities company.
People walk past an electric quotation board flashing the Nikkei key index of the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) in front of a securities company.PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - Asian shares crept higher on Wednesday (June 14) after Wall Street notched another all-time high, while the dollar and bonds awaited clarity on the Federal Reserve's future path for US policy after a likely rate rise later in the day.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan added 0.2 per cent, while Japan's Nikkei put on 0.5 per cent.

Markets took their lead from the Dow, which rose 0.44 per cent, while the S&P 500 gained 0.45 per cent and the Nasdaq 0.73 per cent.

The S&P 500 technology sector rebounded 0.9 per cent, following its biggest two-day decline in nearly a year. Big tech names, including Microsoft and Facebook, led the index higher.

Chinese May industrial output and retail sales figures out on Wednesday morning (0200 GMT) are forecast to show slightly slower but still solid growth, but will likely just be an appetiser to the Fed's main course.

The central bank is scheduled to release its decision at 1800 GMT on Wednesday (2am on Thursday in Singapore) with a news conference to follow from chair Janet Yellen.

Investors fully expect a rate rise largely because Fed officials have told them to, so attention will rather be on the outlook for policy and particularly when the central bank might begin to wind down its massive portfolio of US debt.

"The main focus this week will be on the Fed's balance sheet policy," said Michelle Girard, chief US economist at RBS. "While we expect the formal announcement of a change in its balance sheet policy to be made in September, we do not rule out the possibility that strong guidance regarding the time frame for tapering is delivered sooner."

While the Fed still has another hike pencilled in for this year, a recent run of soft inflation data has left fund futures implying only a 40 per cent chance of a move by December.

The market's five-year outlook for inflation in five years' time has been falling steadily and currently stands at a seven-month trough of 2.18 per cent.

It had spiked as high as 2.52 per cent last November in the wake of President Donald Trump's surprise election victory.

This leaves the market vulnerable to any hawkish spin from the Fed, which would likely slug Treasury prices while lifting the embattled US dollar.

The currency could do with the help having taken a fresh knock on Tuesday when the head of Canada's central bank put his own hawkish spin on the outlook for rates there.

The US dollar fell as far as C$1.3209, its lowest since Feb. 28, having shed 2 cents in as many days.

It also lost ground to sterling after UK inflation data surprised on the high side and amid reports Britain's ruling Conservative Party was likely to sign a deal on Wednesday to form a minority government.

Against a basket of currencies, the dollar was a whisker firmer on Wednesday at 97.016 and little changed on the Japanese yen at 110.04.

In commodity markets, oil slipped after an industry group reported a surprise rise in crude stocks, confounding expectations for a drawdown.

Benchmark Brent crude retreated 47 cents to US$48.25 a barrel while US light crude shed 52 cents to US$45.94.