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Asian stocks start defensively, focus on coronavirus treatment, Jackson Hole

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside of Japan was last down 0.04%, but not too far from a six-month high touched last week.

August 24, 2020 / 07:23 AM IST

Asian shares started cautiously on Monday on jitters over heady valuations though sentiment was underpinned by coronavirus hopes after the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) authorised the use of blood plasma from recovered patients as a treatment option.

The announcement from the U.S. FDA of a so-called “emergency use authorization” came on the eve of the Republican National Convention, where Donald Trump will be nominated to lead his party for four more years.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside of Japan was last down 0.04%, but not too far from a six-month high touched last week.

Australian shares were flat while Japan's Nikkei was reversed early losses to be last up 0.07%.South Korea's KOSPI, which has been on a slippery slope since hitting a more than two-year peak earlier this month, was mildly positive.

E-Mini futures for the S&P500 added 0.2%.Analysts urged caution with Wall Street indexes already at record highs even as the world economy struggled to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.


"Outside of new all-time highs on tech-driven indices, most markets and equity sectors are stalling given an array of low-intensity concerns around global growth," said JPMorgan cross asset analyst John Normand.

"With risks rising somewhat and September a full month for policy, the end of summer is a good time to cross-check valuations and to consider both threats and opportunities."

Normand pointed to talks of a U.S. fiscal package, Fed's upcoming policy review next month and the ramping up of the U.S. election campaign as risk events over coming weeks.

Looming large over this week was a keenly anticipated address by Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell at the Kansas City Fed Jackson Hole symposium, where he will talk on the Fed’s monetary policy framework review.

"This takes on even more significance after the market’s evident disappointment last week," said Ray Attrill, head of forex strategy at Melbourne-based National Australia Bank.

The Fed's July meeting minutes last week barely made a mention of its policy outlook while "failing to give succour to expectations" that its September meeting would reveal a formal commitment to new outcome-based' forward guidance, Attrill added.

In currencies, the dollar nudged up on the safe haven Japanese yen to 105.90.

The British pound nursed losses after falling 0.9% on Friday on lack of progress in post-Brexit trade talks with the European Union. It was last at $1.3089.

Also on Friday came news that Britain's public debt went above 2 trillion pounds ($2.65 trillion) for the first time in July as the government ramped up public spending to cope with the coronavirus pandemic and tax revenues fell.

The euro was defensive at $1.1792 after falling 0.5% on Friday following disappointing manufacturing activity data.

That left the dollar index unchanged at 93.22.

In commodities, oil prices rose on Monday, with Brent crude up 9 cents at $44.44 a barrel and U.S. crude climbing 9 cents to $42.43.

Gold saw some selling pressure with spot prices off 0.3% at 1,933.09 an ounce.
first published: Aug 24, 2020 07:15 am
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