Asian shares edge up to solid February gains, await Trump policy speech

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TOKYO: Asian shares edged up on Tuesday, on track for a winning month and bolstered by gains on Wall Street as investors awaited a speech by U.S. President Donald Trump for signals on tax reform and infrastructure spending.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.2 percent, up 3.6 percent this month nearly 10 percent for the year so far.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.4 percent as financial shares gained, while China’s Shanghai Composite Index added 0.3 percent.

Japan’s Nikkei stock index got a tailwind from a weaker yen and rose 0.8 percent, on track to gain more than 1 percent for February and 0.7 percent for the year to date.

Equity strategist at Nissay Asset Management in Tokyo, Isao Kubo said, “Investors have seen the market fluctuating between hopes and disappointment about Trump’s growth policy and a lack of details.”

On Monday, U.S. stocks edged up, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing at a record high for a 12th straight session, after Trump said he would talk about his plans for “big” infrastructure spending in his first major policy address to Congress on Tuesday (9 pm ET Feb 28/0200 GMT on March 1).

Market strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank, Ayako Sera said, “This could be like the case of his inauguration speech, in which expectations were high, but he didn’t come up with any concrete details.”

She said, “The market does not want a repeat of that, and wants to hear some actual plans, or there will be disappointment.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a televised interview on Sunday that Trump will use the event to preview some elements of his sweeping tax reform plans.

A White House budget official said that Trump will seek to boost Pentagon spending by $54 billion in his first budget proposal and slash the same amount from non-defense spending, including a large reduction in foreign aid.

The dollar edged down 0.1 percent to 112.62 yen but still held above Monday’s nadir of 111.920, which was its lowest since Feb. 9. The euro was steady on the day at $1.0586.

Hawkish comments from a U.S. Federal Reserve official also bolstered U.S. Treasury yields and underpinned the dollar.

Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan said on Monday that the Fed might need to raise interest rates in the near future to avoid falling behind the curve on inflation.

The yield on benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasuries, which had slumped to more than five-week lows last week, stood at 2.370 percent in Asian trade, compared to their U.S. close of 2.367 percent on Monday.

Crude oil prices were largely steady, as expectations of higher U.S. crude production offset reports of high compliance with OPEC’s production cut agreement.

U.S. crude was up 0.2 percent on the day at $54.18 per barrel, while Brent crude added 0.3 percent to $56.10.

Spot gold edged up slightly to $1,253.06 an ounce but remained shy of a 3-1/2-month peak scaled on Monday as investors awaited Trump’s speech.

Source: Reuters

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