In Asian Equity Markets Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose more than 0.8 percent in morning trade while the Topix index gained around 0.4 percent. Shares of Fast Retailing, the company behind the Uniqlo chain of apparel stores, jumped almost 5 percent despite reporting a more than 8 percent decline in its year-on-year operating profit for the three months ended Nov. 30. Australia’s ASX 200 shed its earlier gains to trade largely flat. The Shanghai composite rose more than 0.2 percent while the Shenzhen composite advanced 0.293 percent.

 

In Currency Markets the U.S. dollar held a soft tone versus its peers on Friday, on rising expectations the U.S. Federal Reserve may hit the pause button on monetary tightening if the economy slows this year. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell reiterated on Thursday the U.S. central bank has the ability to be patient on monetary policy given that inflation remains stable. Markets are now pricing in no further rate hikes by the Fed this year. The dollar index was marginally lower at 95.5. The index has fallen around 2.2 percent since mid-December.

 

In Commodities Markets oil prices fell on Friday as concerns over economic growth were rekindled after talks fell short of offering concrete steps to end the Sino-U.S. trade conflict, although OPEC-led production cuts bolstered sentiment in crude markets. Oil prices were also supported by comments from U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Thursday that the central bank had the ability to be patient on monetary policy. International Brent crude futures were at $61.22 per barrel, down 46 cents, or 0.75 percent, from their last close.

 

In US Equity Markets indices extended its rally into a fifth straight day on Thursday in a session of whipsaw trading as investors responded to mixed comments by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, while a warning from Macy’s pressured retail stocks. The S&P 500 gained 0.45 percent to 2,596.63. The Nasdaq Composite added 0.42 percent to 6,986.07. Macy’s Inc stock fell 17.69 percent and pulled down other retailers after the department store operator cut its same-store sales forecast for the full year because of weak demand during mid-December.

 

In Bond Markets U.S. Treasury prices rose on Thursday as stocks weakened in choppy trading, but pared price gains after a soft 30-year bond auction and as Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the U.S. central bank will “substantially” reduce the size of its balance sheet. Powell’s comments on the balance sheet came as the Treasury Department auctioned $16 billion in 30-year bonds to weak demand, which sent longer-dated bond yields to session highs. The ratio of bids to the amount of 30-year bonds offered was 2.19, lower than the 2.31 at the 30-year auction in December.

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