Asian markets climb on tech share rally

A pedestrian walking past an electronics stocks indicator in Tokyo.
A pedestrian walking past an electronics stocks indicator in Tokyo.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Asian shares advanced on Tuesday (May 2), helped by rising optimism on the technology industry and easing concerns over North Korea, while the US dollar edged up to one-month high versus the yen.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.1 per cent, with many of the region's markets reopening after a long holiday weekend.

Japan's Nikkei rose 0.3 per cent.

On Wall Street, although the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.13 per cent on Monday, the S&P 500 gained 0.17 per cent and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.73 per cent to a record closing high.

Notably, the world's five largest companies by market capitalisation - Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft , Amazon and Facebook - all hit intraday or closing highs - or both - on Monday.

"For those large shares to rally to record highs at the same time, you really need a big amount of money flowing in. It is fair to assume the money that was once staying in the bond markets are now going to hi-tech shares on back of their strong earnings," said Norihiro Fujito, senior investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.

The gains in hi-tech shares accelerated after strong earnings from Google, Amazon and Microsoft last week. Apple is due to report its results on Tuesday and Facebook on Wednesday.

In Asia, Samsung Electronics gained 1.6 per cent, helping to lift Kospi index 0.7 per cent.

Worries about tensions over the Korean peninsula also eased slightly after US President Donald Trump on Monday opened the door to meeting North Korea's Kim Jong Un, saying he would be honoured to meet the young leader under the right circumstances.

The CBOE Volatility Index, a barometer of expected near-term stock market volatility, closed at its lowest level since Feb 2007, suggesting investors' fears were easing.

In the foreign exchange market, diminishing risk aversion is helping the dollar to gain a foothold at one-month high of 111.945 yen.

The euro was little moved at US$1.0911, stuck in a well-worn range ahead of the second round of the French presidential election on Sunday.

The optimism on the hi-tech sector offset Monday's weaker-than-expected US economic data.

US factory activity slowed in April, with ISM manufacturing activity index falling to 54.8 from 57.2 in March, an unexpectedly large retreat.

"Given that reading for March was really strong, you can say that it has become 'strong' from 'super-strong'," said Mitsubishi UFJ's Fujito.

Softness was also seen in another data, which showed US consumer spending was unchanged in March and a key inflation measure recorded its first monthly drop since 2001.

Still economists expect the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates in June as the labour market seems to be tightening.

Money market futures are pricing in about 70 per cent chance in June. Virtually no one expects a rate hike in its upcoming meeting on May 2-3.

In the US bond market, the 30-year U.S. Treasuries yield rose above 3 per cent for the first time since April 10 after US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the government is looking into the issuance of ultra long-term bonds, or those with maturities beyond 30 years.

Fear of more issues in those maturities lifted the yield spread between 10- and 30-year bonds to 0.69 percentage point, its highest since early December.

The 10-year yield stood at 2.322 per cent, below two-week high of 2.350 per cent set on April 26.

Oil prices were under pressure as rising crude output on Libya and the United States countered Opec-led production cuts aimed at clearing a supply glut.

Brent futures stood at US$51.44 per barrel, down 7 cent, or 0.1 per cent, in early Asian trade.