Asian stocks at 2-yr high, dollar on defensive

Asian stocks at 2-yr high, dollar on defensive

Hong Kong: Asian stocks hit a two-year high and the dollar was stuck near a seven-month low after poor US data reinforced expectations the US Federal Reserve will take more action to help the struggling economy.

Gold firmed near record peaks as the Fed and Bank of Japan look to pump more funds into global markets via bond purchases and other measures as major economies struggle.

Asian stocks outside Japan rose 0.7% and were poised for their biggest monthly gain since July 2009, up 11.9%, in what is historically one of the worst months for stocks.

Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.6%, helped by the yen’s slight retreat versus the dollar and as a dour outlook from Japanese manufacturers raised hopes for more BOJ easing.

“The Nikkei’s rising on the slightly weaker yen, and there’s also probably some window-dressing ahead of the end of the first half of the business year," said Norihiro Fujito, general manager at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.

A closely watched survey of Japanese manufacturers showed confidence improved for a sixth straight quarter but they turned negative on the outlook in a sign that yen strength could derail the fragile economic recovery and spur the central bank to ease policy next week.

Spot gold inched up on Wednesday, hovering near a record high hit in the previous session, on expectations of continued dollar weakness and further monetary easing by the Fed.

US consumer confidence fell to its lowest level in seven months with unemployment levels at 26-year highs.

The Federal Reserve said last week it was prepared to put more money into the economy, if needed, to stimulate the recovery and avoid deflation.

The Fed is likely preparing a fresh round of quantitative easing measures to announce at the end of its 2-3 November meeting, hedge fund adviser Medley Global Advisors said in a report on Tuesday, a market source told Reuters..

The Fed is also weighing a more open-ended, smaller-scale bond buying programme, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Oil rose on Wednesday after an industry report showed crude and winter fuel stockpiles declined last week in top-consumer the United States, reducing a surplus that has weighed on market sentiment for months.

Shanghai copper opened 0.5% higher, chasing prices in London that climbed to near five-month peaks, and continued on dollar weakness.