Asian shares rise to two-month highs on upbeat US data, STI up 0.3%

A man looking at stock prices displayed at a board showing market indices in Tokyo on July 28, 2015.
A man looking at stock prices displayed at a board showing market indices in Tokyo on July 28, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Asian shares hit a two-month high on Friday (Oct 16), catching some of Wall Street's shine after upbeat US conumer price and jobless claims data calmed some concerns about the strength of the U.S. economy.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.4 per cent, on track for a robust weekly gain of 2.2 per cent.

Japan's Nikkei stock index was up 1.4 per cent, but still poised to shed about 0.5 per cent for the week.

Singapore's Straits Times Index was up 0.32 per cent at 3,024.82 as of 11:30 am.

Wall Street logged solid gains overnight, after the number of Americans filing new applications for unemployment benefits fell back to a 42-year low last week. That suggested the labour market remained strong even though recent jobs data have sent mixed signals.

Also out overnight, the core consumer price index, which excludes food and energy costs, gained 0.2 per cent in September after ticking up 0.1 per cent in August, reviving some bets that the Federal Reserve will deliver its first interest rate hike since 2006 as early as this year.

The Fed held policy steady last month, and expressed concerns that the slowing global economy, particularly in China, might pose a threat to the US economic outlook.

Rekindled rate-hike expectations lifted the US dollar. The dollar index, which gauges the greenback against a basket of six major counterparts, was up 0.2 per cent at 94.512, but still on track for a weekly loss of about 0.3 per cent.

The greenback also gained 0.2 percent against the yen, buying 119.11 yen after pulling away from a 7-week trough of 118.065 struck overnight. The US currency was still poised to lose 1 percent this week.

"It is doubtful the market tried to factor in the possibility of the Fed raising rates this year on the inflation number, but the Fed is 'data dependent' so it reacts positively to upbeat data," said Shinichiro Kadota, chief Japan forex strategist at Barclays in Tokyo.

But bets maintaining that the Fed will not raise rates until next year helped keep gold close to a 3 1/2 month high hit Thursday, and on track for its biggest weekly jump in four weeks. Spot gold was steady at US$1,179.40 an ounce, after jumping to US$1,190.63 in the previous session.

Investors remained cautious ahead of China's latest economic growth data scheduled to be released on Monday.

Growth in the world's second-largest economy is expected to slow to 6.5 per cent in the third quarter, falling below 7 per cent for the first time since the global financial crisis. "China's economy is growing fast - though not as fast as analysts and investors would like - and that is all you need to know," Carl Weinberg, chief economist at High Frequency Economics, said in a note to clients on Friday.

China's CSI300 index gained 1.1 per cent, set to end the week 5.6 per cent higher.

Markets also await September eurozone inflation data, due Friday, with expectations that an early estimate of prices contracting 0.1 per cent will be confirmed. (ID: nL8N12F3OQ) The latest survey of over 60 economists showed eurozone inflation was expected to average 0.1 percent this year, rise to 1.1 percent in 2016 and further to 1.6 percent in 2017 - still much lower than the European Central Bank's near 2 percent target.

The euro was steady at $1.1376, having slid from a 7-week peak of $1.1495 scaled the previous day after ECB's Nowotny said it was "obvious" the central bank must seek more ways to stimulate the euro zone economy. The common currency was on track to end the week effectively flat.

Oil prices reversed overnight losses seen when the U.S. government reported a larger-than-expected crude stockpile build.

US crude was up 0.5 per cent at US$46.88 a barrel, after shedding 0.6 per cent on Thursday. Brent added 0.4 per cent to US$50.12.