Asia stocks bounce on firmer China services data, pound steadies

Australian stocks lost 0.8 per cent and Japan's Nikkei fell 0.3 per cent.
Australian stocks lost 0.8 per cent and Japan's Nikkei fell 0.3 per cent.PHOTO: AP

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Asian stocks bounced on Wednesday (Sept 4), led by Chinese markets after a report showed growth in the country’s service sector accelerating despite broader economic headwinds, while the pound halted its decline on hopes a no-deal Brexit may yet be averted.

The Shanghai Composite Index added 0.45 per cent while the blue-chip CSI300 index gained 0.5 per cent after activity in China’s services sector expanded at the fastest pace in three months in August, according to a business survey.

MSCI’s index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan snapped two days of losses and gained 0.5 per cent.

While some markets in Asia enjoyed gains, sentiment in the wider region remained subdued amid worries about a global recession.

Data on Tuesday showed the US manufacturing sector contracted in August for the first time since 2016 amid worries about a weakening global economy and rising trade tensions between China and the United States, the Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) report on Tuesday showed.

Australian stocks lost 0.75 per cent and Japan’s Nikkei was little changed.

According to CME’s FedWatch tool, traders have almost fully priced in a 25 basis point (bp) interest rate cut at the Fed’s Sept 17-18 policy meeting while expectations for another 25 bp reduction being implemented at the October meeting have risen to 61 per cent from 53 per cent over the past month.

The 10-year US Treasury yielded 1.474 per cent after stooping to 1.429 per cent on Tuesday, its lowest since July 2016.

“As the decline in US yields show, the markets will be urging the Fed on to do more even though a September rate cut is already priced in,” said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui DS Asset Management.

 
 

POUND FINDS FOOTING FOR NOW

Sterling was last up 0.1 per cent at US$1.2097 after falling on Tuesday to US$1.1959, the lowest level since October 2016.

The pound’s bounce came after a British cross-party alliance defeated Prime Minister Johnson in an effort to block a “no-deal” Brexit, leading the premier to push for a snap election.

The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies stood at 98.938 after rising overnight to 99.37, its highest level since May 2017, having lost some ground in the wake of Tuesday’s poor ISM reading.

The euro was steady at US$1.0973 after sliding to a 28-month low of US$1.0926 overnight as investors braced for a potential interest rate cut by the European Central Bank next week.

US crude oil futures rose 0.5 per cent to US$54.22 per barrel, trimming some of the previous day’s large losses. The contracts had shed more than 2 per cent on Tuesday after the weak US ISM data raised concerns about a weakening global economy.