Hong Kong: Japanese stocks led Asian equities higher on Monday and the US dollar climbed against major currencies on optimism that US employment figures later in the week will reflect a sustained economic recovery.
Emerging Asian currencies strengthened and regional stocks outside Japan edged up to a five-month high as the first trading day of 2010 began on an upbeat note.
Investors focused on bullish indicators, such as figures on Monday showing manufacturing employment in South Korea at the highest since January 2008, and ignored the few bearish ones, like a much larger-than-expected fourth-quarter contraction of Singapore’s economy.
The main event of the week will be the US payrolls numbers on Friday. The median expectation is for a decline of 20,000 jobs in December, though some dealers appeared to be placing bets that they would see the first jobs growth in two years.
“By the end of the week we see gains in risky assets - equities, commodities, corporate credit and emerging assets,” said Dariusz Kowalczyk, chief investment strategist with SJS Markets in Hong Kong, in a note.
Tokyo’s Nikkei share average rose 1.4%, led by companies in the technology sector.
Shares of Japan Airlines Corp soared 34% and were the top gainer in the Nikkei after local media reported a state-owned bank would double its credit line to the struggling airline.
The MSCI index of Asia Pacific stocks outside Japan is up 0.1% after earlier hitting the highest since 31 July. Technology stocks were outperforming while financials underperformed.
The index gained nearly 70% in 2009, its best performance since 1993. Analysts see more gains this year but at a much slower and possibly more volatile pace as interest rate hikes loom in many countries.
The Thomson Reuters regional equity index was up 0.3%.
Euro drops 0.4% to $1.4266, with dealers continuing to slash bets on the common currency, even after it fell 4.6% in December.
Higher US Treasury yields continue to be supportive of the dollar against developed currencies.
In early trading, 10-year US Treasury futures were down 0.1% In December, the contract had its biggest monthly decline since July 2003.
Emerging Asian currencies shoot higher on positive growth prospects, following last week’s December manufacturing data out of China and South Korea. Dollar falls 0.7% against Korean won to 1,115 won
US crude for February delivery rose 0.6% to $79.86 a barrel supported by news Russia has halted oil supplies to Belarussian refineries after failing to agree on terms for 2010.