Japan shares at two-decade high, yen at 3-month low on Abe win

Japan's Nikkei raced up 1 per cent to its highest since 1996 after Prime Minister Abe looked to have easily won in national elections over the weekend. PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - Japanese shares jumped on a weaker yen on Monday (Oct 23) as an election win for Shinzo Abe's ruling bloc gave a green light for more policy stimulus, while the euro eased as Spain's constitutional crisis aggravated concerns about political unity in the region.

The US dollar was the major beneficiary as President Donald Trump and Republicans took a small step toward tax cuts, boosting Wall Street stocks and lifting bond yields.

Japan's Nikkei raced up 1 per cent to its highest since 1996 after Prime Minister Abe looked to have easily won in national elections over the weekend.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan held steady, while Singapore's main index reached its highest in over two years.

Investors assumed Abe's victory would allow the Bank of Japan to continue with massive monetary easing that depresses bond yields and the yen, even as the US Federal Reserve seems determined to hike rates again in December.

"This should extend the lifespan of 'Abenomics', including the BOJ's mega stimulus," wrote analysts at the Blackrock Investment Institute.

"We see the outcome as a mild positive for Japanese equities, and as a mild negative for the yen and Japanese government bonds."

The US dollar rose 0.2 per cent to 113.74 yen and briefly touched its highest since mid-July at 114.09. It faces stiff resistance at the July top of 114.49, but a break would open the way to its March peaks around 115.51. Against a basket of currencies, the dollar edged up 0.1 per cent.

The yen even slipped against the euro, which was having its own troubles as the Spanish government urged Catalans to accept its decision to dismiss their secessionist leadership and to take control of the restive region.

The nation's biggest political crisis in decades enters a decisive week as Madrid tries to impose its control, although investors have so far assumed the political strife would not spread to elsewhere in the European Union.

The euro eased only a modest 0.13 per cent on Monday to US$1.1770 and has strong chart support around US$1.1729.

The single currency faces another hurdle on Thursday when the European Central Bank holds a policy meeting amid much talk it will cut back the amount of assets it buys every month, but also extend the programme.

"As we have argued for some time now, the length of time the (quantitative easing) programme runs for matters more than monthly size," said analysts at RBC Capital Markets.

"So while we look for a reduction by at least 30 billion euros in net terms ... we also expect that the ECB will keep the programme open ended."

Asian share markets caught some tailwind from Wall Street's record finish on Friday when the passage of a US Senate budget resolution bolstered speculation that President Trump's tax-cut plan may move forward.

The Dow ended Friday with gains of 0.71 per cent, while the S&P 500 rose 0.51 per cent and the Nasdaq 0.36 per cent.

In commodity markets, a firmer dollar nudged gold down 0.3 per cent to US$1,276.80 an ounce.

Oil prices edged ahead on supply concerns in the Middle East and as the US market showed further signs of tightening while demand in Asia keeps rising.

Brent crude rose 13 cents to US$57.88 a barrel, while US crude futures added 25 cents to US$52.09.

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