Asia stocks slip as US CPI fails to enthuse; dollar up
SYDNEY – Asian stocks edged towards a weekly loss on Friday and the U.S. dollar was headed for a month of gains after U.S. inflation came in steady, without the hoped-for surprise on the downside.
Soft demand at a 30-year Treasury auction and a blowout in the U.S. budget deficit last month also weighed on bonds, and their higher yields in turn pushed the dollar up – particularly against a yen pinned by yield control in Japan.
The yen touched a six-week low of 144.89 per dollar in early trade on Friday, though volumes were thinned owing to a public holiday in Japan. Its stock markets were closed and Treasuries went untraded in the Asia session.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged 0.2 percent lower and headed for a 1- percent weekly loss.
Headline U.S. CPI was 0.2 percent last month, the same as a month earlier, and the details were encouraging – with core goods inflation slowing down and only rents proving stubbornly sticky.
Yet a few hours later San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly told Yahoo Finance that while this was welcome, there “is still more work to do” for policymakers.
“I think the market was hoping with that inflation data that we’d hear Fed speakers say it’s unlikely we’ll have to hike any further, and the next move is a cut,” said Andrew Lilley, chief rates strategist at investment bank Barrenjoey in Sydney.
Benchmark 10-year Treasuries initially rallied on the inflation headlines, but yields were seven basis points higher at 4.11 percent by the close of trade in New York. Two-year yields rose two bps to 4.82 percent.
Thirty-year yields jumped six bps to 4.24 percent after a $23 billion auction landed a basis point above where the market was trading. Primary dealers were left with 12.5 percent of the sale.
“That fueled concerns that the markets are struggling to digest what is now a meaningfully larger supply story from the U.S. Treasury,” said Sally Auld, chief investment officer at wealth manager JB Were in Sydney.
The July U.S. budget deficit also came in at $221 billion, more than double market expectations, to take the year-to-date deficit beyond $1.6 trillion – compared with less than half of that a year earlier – and the momentum foreshadows more borrowing.
In foreign exchange markets, choppy trade in the wake of the inflation data release left the dollar on course for a weekly gain as traders figured that one certainty is that U.S. rates will not be going down for a while.
The euro is down marginally for the week at $1.0988. The yen was eyeing a weekly loss of 2 percent as traders judged the Bank of Japan’s looser cap on 10-year yields as buying time for shorter-dated rates to stay low.
In stock markets, Chinese property stocks were taking a fresh beating on giant developer Country Garden, which is struggling with its debts, forecasting a $7.6 billion net loss in the first half. Country Garden stock fell 11 percent. An index of mainland developers fell 2.3 percent to a nearly three-week low.
Hong Kong shares in Alibaba rose 3.8 percent after the e-commerce giant posted its best quarterly revenue for two years. The broader Hang Seng was flat. Shares in battered Australian casino operator Star Entertainment rose 20 percent after it secured tax concessions from New South Wales state.
In commodity markets, European gas prices have been jumpy on the prospect of a strike on Australian gas fields. Chevron and Woodside are in talks with workers over pay and conditions at facilities that supply about 10 percent of the world’s liquefied natural gas.
Brent crude futures looked to end the week steady at $86.67 a barrel. British growth figures and U.S. consumer confidence data are due later on Friday.