Asian shares firm after US service sector rebounds, oil hits 4-month high

Pedestrians walk past an electric quotation board displaying the Nikkei key index of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo.
Pedestrians walk past an electric quotation board displaying the Nikkei key index of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Asian shares firmed on Thursday (Oct 6), encouraged by stronger US economic data and a rise in oil prices, while growing prospects of a US rate hike hit gold and the boosted the US dollar to one-month highs versus the yen.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.2 per cent while Japan's Nikkei gained 0.9 per cent.

On Wednesday, US S&P 500 Index gained 0.43 per cent, led by banks and energy companies.

US services sector activity recovered sharply in September from six-year low hit in August, following similarly upbeat news from US factories on Monday.

"Both manufacturing and service indexes recovered from big falls in August. While it is not clear what the underlying US economic trend is, given the recovery in Japanese and Chinese surveys the global economic cycle appears to be rebounding for now," said Chotaro Morita, chief bond strategist at SMBC Nikko Securities.

Rising optimism on the US economy boosted bets that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates in December.

The policy-sensitive two-year US note yield hit a four-month high of 0.857 per cent with interest rate futures pricing in more than a 60 per cent chance the Fed will hike by its December meeting.

The rise in bond yields partly stemmed from speculation the European Central Bank may eventually taper its bond buying after Bloomberg reported on Tuesday the bank would probably wind down the monthly 80-billion euro scheme.

Euro zone bond yields have picked up since then, with Germany's 10-year Bund yield rising back to near zero per cent from 2 1/2-month low of minus 0.16 per cent hit last week.

The spectre of tighter monetary policy in the US and Europe hit precious metals hard.

Gold extended losses after its sharp fall on Tuesday, hitting a 3 1/2-month low of US$1,262.2 per ounce overnight on Wednesday. Silver also fell to US$17.565 per ounce, its lowest since late June.

In the currency market, the dollar rose to a one-month high of 103.67 yen and last stood at 103.52 yen.

The British pound recovered slightly after hitting a three-decade low of US$1.2686 on Wednesday on worries about Britain's EU exit. It last traded at US$1.2747.

The euro was little changed at US$1.1209, with pressure from concerns about the health of Deutsche Bank offset by speculation about the ECB's tapering.

Oil prices rose to their highest since June after the fifth unexpected weekly drawdown in US crude inventories added to support on hopes that major producers will agree to cut output next month.

The US Energy Information Administration said crude stockpiles fell 3 million barrels last week, well below the build of 2.6 million barrels forecast by analysts in a Reuters poll.

International benchmark Brent futures rose to as high as US$52.09 per barrel on Wednesday, the highest since early June and up almost 6 per cent so far this week.