September 20, 2019 / 6:22 AM / a month ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-Economic stimulus lifts shares, oil edges up on Mideast tensions

* Share prices near this year’s peak in many markets

* Asian stock markets: tmsnrt.rs/2zpUAr4

* Sterling rises after Juncker’s comments on Brexit

* China cuts new 1-year lending benchmark rate by 5 bps

* European stocks seen down slightly

By Hideyuki Sano

TOKYO, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Asian share prices rose on Friday as economic stimulus around the world helped eased fears over slowing growth, while crude oil prices climbed on concerns that last weekend’s attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities still pose supply risks.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.5%, though it was on course to post its first weekly decline in five, hit by sizable losses in Hong Kong and India.

Japan’s Nikkei ended 0.2% higher, within striking distance of its year-to-date peak and U.S. and European shares also stood near their best levels this year.

But pan-European Euro Stoxx 50 futures were down 0.1% in early Friday trade, though the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index stood within sight of this year’s peak.

The S&P 500 ended flat on Thursday, staying than less than 1% below its closing record high hit in July.

Monetary easing by the U.S. Federal Reserve this week and by the European Central Bank last week underpinned investor sentiment.

China also cut its new one-year benchmark lending rate for the second month in a row on Friday, by just 5 basis points, as Beijing seeks to guide borrowing costs lower for an economy hit by the Sino-U.S. trade war.

“The direct and immediate impact on the economy will be limited given the small size of the cut, but the action has made it clear the Chinese authorities are taking an accommodative stance and should give reassurance to Chinese stock markets,” said Wang Shenshen, economist at Tokai Tokyo Research Center.

The latest U.S. economic data also eased worries about slowdown in the world’s largest economy.

The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits increased less than expected last week while home resales rose to a 17-month high in August.

“Investors are starting to price in the possibility of re-acceleration in the global economy next year. So far this month China has taken steps to support the economy, and U.S. and European central banks eased policy,” said Nobuhiko Kuramochi, chief strategist at Mizuho Securities.

“There are hopes of an interim or partial trade deal between China as U.S. President Trump will need to shore up the economy next year before the election,” he added.

U.S. and Chinese deputy trade negotiators resumed face-to-face talks for the first time in nearly two months on Thursday, trying to lay the groundwork for high-level talks in early October.

Hopes for a deal were so strong that the markets shrugged off a media report that a trade adviser to Trump has said the U.S. president is ready to raise tariffs to 50 or 100 percent.

The New York Fed continued to inject a large amount of cash in money markets to deal with funding squeeze since the start of week, helping to bring down interest rates in the U.S. repo market, a key funding market.

In currency markets, the British pound kept its uptrend after European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said a Brexit deal is possible and that if the Irish border backstop which the British government wants removed could be replaced with alternatives, it would not be needed.

Sterling rose 0.3% to a two-month high of $1.2566. The British unit scaled a four-month high versus the euro at 88.00 pence per euro.

The euro was at $1.1057, staying in a holding pattern this week.

The yen edged up to at 107.86 yen to the dollar, off its 1-1/2 month low of 108.48 yen hit on Wednesday.

The Brazilian real fell 1.4% on Thursday to 4.167 to the dollar after the central bank slashed borrowing costs to an all-time low and signalled it was prepared to do so again in the coming months.

Oil prices bounced back on continued worries about the stability of oil supply as tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran showed little sign of abating after a weekend attack on Saudi oil installations.

A Saudi-led coalition launched a military operation north of Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah, as the United States worked with Middle East and European nations to build a coalition to deter Iran.

“The fact that Trump does not seem intent on military actions is helping to curb rise in prices. But there are creeping doubts over whether Saudi Arabia can recover production as quickly as it has promised,” said Tatsufumi Okoshi, senior commodity economist at Nomura Securities.

Brent crude futures rose 0.5% to $64.71 a barrel, up 7.4% on the week, which if sustained would be the biggest since early January.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude gained 0.89% to $58.65 per barrel. (Editing by Lincoln Feast & Kim Coghill)

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