Asian stock markets: Struggle for a clear direction amid broad risk-off

  • Shares in Asia waver between small gains and losses as upbeat data from China and Japan contrast the virus woes.
  • US dollar index drops to the fresh lows since May 2018, Tech shares benefit from giants’ earnings.
  • Bears are in control but bulls take intermediate clues from Chinese blue-chips, hopes of further stimulus.

Asian equities fail to entertain momentum traders during the early Friday. Fears of the coronavirus (COVID-19) hitting the global economy and no confirmation of the US stimulus favor the bears. On the contrary, bulls cheered upbeat statistics from China and Japan, as well as welcome earnings from global tech giants like Apple, Facebook and Alphabet.

China’s official PMI data crossed downbeat forecasts whereas Japan’s Unemployment Rate and the preliminary reading of Industrial Production also questioned the government’s downbeat economic projections. Alternatively, Australia’s Producer Price Index and Private Sector Credit failed to turn down the market pessimism.

Amid all these catalysts, the MSCI index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rises 0.26% but Japan’s Nikkei 225 drops a whopping 2.35% by the press time. Further, Australia’s ASX 200 drop 1.8% to 5,945 whereas New Zealand’s NZX 50 remains mostly unchanged even as RBNZ’s Deputy Governor Bascand sound cautiously optimistic. Moving on, stocks in China trade mixed with mild gains, which in turn help Hong Kong’s Hang Seng and Indonesia’s IDX 50. Though, South Korea’s KOSPI and India’s BSE Sensex buck the trend amid mixed COVID-19 headlines.

Talking about the US, heavy contraction in the GDP, by nearly 33% in the second quarter (Q2) pushes the US dollar index (DXY) towards fresh lows since May 2018. Also exerting downside pressure on the market sentiment are the surge in the pandemic cases from Texas and a lack of agreement over phase 4.0 fiscal package in the US Senate. Even so, S&P 500 Futures mark mild gains while taking clues from tech giants. It’s worth mentioning that the US Treasury yields are probing the record lows flashed in March.

Although the global economic calendar carries a few key data/events, except for the Eurozone Consumer Price Index, discussions over the extension of American unemployment claim benefits and the aid package will be the key to follow for immediate direction.

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