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Corporate results support Asia stocks but outlook hazy

Corporate results support Asia stocks but outlook hazy
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First Published: Fri, Apr 17 2009. 10 44 AM IST
Updated: Fri, Apr 17 2009. 10 44 AM IST
Hong Kong: Asian stocks rose on Friday and the yen slipped, after upbeat results from JPMorgan and Google kept a revival of risk taking alive, with Asian shares outside Japan on track for a sixth week of gains.
A jump in Chinese industrial output in March has added to a sense previously instilled by US indicators that the pace of deterioration has slowed from the alarming rate of just a few months ago.
Still, comments from policymakers about the economic outlook were cautious and hardly embraced the potential for a speedy recovery. Federal Reserve official Janet Yellen said in a speech there are tentative signs of stability but it was still impossible to know how deep the US recession will ultimately be.
Higher-yielding currencies, like the Australian dollar and New Zealand dollar, have been rallying alongside global equity markets, but not to same extent, with currency dealers still concerned about the mixed bag of economic data around the world.
“Corporate reports allowed negative developments to be overlooked,” said Dariusz Kowalczyk, chief investment strategist with SJS Markets in Hong Kong, in a note to clients.
“As a result, risk appetite continued to improve, depressing prices of sovereign developed debt and lifting prices of equities, corporate credit and most commodities.”
The MSCI index of Asia Pacific stocks outside Japan was up 1.1% on the day and trying to close higher for a sixth consecutive week. That would be the longest weekly string of gains since the second half of 2007, when the bull market reached its apex.
Japan’s Nikkei share average climbed 1.7%, with investors selling defensive industries like pharmaceuticals and buying industries sensitive to business cycles like automakers.
Shares of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, the country’s largest bank, rose 1.6%, supported after first quarter profits at JPMorgan topped estimates though they were still down some 40 percent from a year ago.
Citigroup is expected to report its first quarter results before Wall Street opens for trading.
Taiwan’s tech-filled TAIEX index was up 1.1%, set for a ninth week of gains. Taiwan, a weather vane for US and Chinese demand, has been a regional leader in the equity rally that has lasted for more than a month.
Globally, investors have been slowly reducing their cash piles and putting the money to work in emerging markets and mostly US corporate bonds.
Year-to-date emerging market equity funds have received $7.3 billion in new investment, while developed market stock funds have had net redemptions of $56.1 billion, Boston-based research firm EPFR Global said in a note.
At the heart of the sustained improvement in willingness to take risks for higher returns is a belief that after the crisis, big developing nations like China and Brazil will have a much more powerful place in the global economy.
Chinas determination to sustain 8 percent plus GDP growth remains the cornerstone of the latest surge in risk appetite, even though it was only able to eke out 6.1% growth in the first quarter said Cameron Brandt, senior analyst with EPFR.
The flow data for April clearly favours China and a lot of the markets - Brazil, Canada, Australia, and South Africa for example - that will benefit from its demand for raw materials.
The yen slipped as modest risk taking returned as equities rose. The dollar rose 0.3 percent to ¥99.65,after briefly slipping below its 200-day moving average on Thursday.
The euro strengthened 0.1 percent to 131.05 yen but slipped 0.3% to $1.3149.
The Australian dollar has gained some ¥14 since February, but has had trouble hurdling a few technical obstacles between ¥72 and ¥74. The Australian dollar was up 0.3 percent on the day at ¥71.78.
Activity in the Japanese government bond cash market was quiet ahead of the outcome of a meeting between the Ministry of Finance and primary dealers. Some in the market believe new debt issuance in term of maturities will be discussed.
Abundant new supply of government debt to finance economic rescue plans has also been a theme that has weighed on US Treasuries.
The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note was unchanged from late in New York, at 2.84%. Treasuries took a beating on Thursday as global stocks climbed.
Commodity prices struggled to add to recent gains, with mixed US and Chinese economic data making the outlook for demand unclear.
US crude for May delivery fell 0.3% to $49.82 a barrel after a 1.5% rise overnight. Economic readings in both China and the United States have been both less dire recently, though that has not necessarily translated into more demand for energy.
The American Petroleum Institute said on Thursday US demand for crude and petroleum products fell 2.2% in March.
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First Published: Fri, Apr 17 2009. 10 44 AM IST
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