Asian stocks set to follow U.S. jobs rally, China in focus

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NEW YORK (Reuters) – Asian stocks were likely to track a firmer Wall Street session on Friday after strong U.S. jobs data although growing Sino-U.S. tensions and a worrying surge in coronavirus cases is likely to cap gains.

{{178|Japan’s NiNikkei 225 futures rose 0.45% and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 futures climbed 0.58%.

E-mini futures for the S&P 500 rose 0.14%.

“While June data reflected a big improvement in the U.S. labor market, the recent sharp acceleration in new virus cases plus the prospect of an end to unemployment benefits by the end of July are two big layers of uncertainty,” said NAB Markets analyst Rodrigo Catril, adding that the uptick in U.S. cases could mean extended headwinds for the labor market.

Wall Street ended Thursday higher following a record increase in payrolls and a decline in unemployment. U.S. markets are closed on Friday in observance of Independence Day.

However, investor focus is shifting to worsening strains between China and the United States.

More than 75 U.S. members of congress sent a letter to the President Donald Trump urging him to take make a formal determination on whether China’s treatment of Muslim Uighurs and other groups constitutes an atrocity.

The U.S. State Department also warned American companies including Amazon.com Inc (NASDAQ:AMZN), Walmart (NYSE:WMT) Inc and Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL) to check their supply chains and ensure they are not doing business with entities linked to alleged human rights abuses against Uighurs in China’s Xinjiang province.

Separately, Congress passed legislation seeking to punish banks that do business with Chinese officials who implement Beijing’s draconian new national security law on Hong Kong.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.92%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.36%, the S&P 500 gained 0.45% and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.52%.

The positive economic data also pushed oil prices higher.

Brent crude futures settled at $43.14 a barrel, rising $1.11, or 2.6%. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures settled at $40.65 a barrel, up 83 cents, or 2.1%.

Investors still embraced the safe-haven dollar and gold, which usually rise when risk appetite declines, as an acceleration in new COVID-19 cases across the country prompted fresh restrictions.

The dollar index rose 0.058%, with the euro up 0.01% to $1.1239.

The Japanese yen weakened 0.02% versus the greenback at 107.53 per dollar, while sterling last traded at $1.2468, up 0.02% on the day.

Spot gold rose 0.4% to $1,777.04 per ounce

U.S. Treasury yields ended the day lower ahead of the July 4 long weekend, with the benchmark 10-year yield fell 1.1 basis points at 0.6709%.

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