Asian markets flat despite positive economic data

China survey upbeat on manufacturing, but concerns remain about Fed’s stance

Comments last week from James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, saw Asian markets slip over-night over renewed concerns about the Federal Reserve’s policy stance. Photograph: David Vilder/Bloomberg

Comments last week from James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, saw Asian markets slip over-night over renewed concerns about the Federal Reserve’s policy stance. Photograph: David Vilder/Bloomberg


Most Asian markets slipped in over-night trading as a soft lead from Wall Street and renewed concerns about the Federal Reserve’s policy stance took the shine off an upbeat survey on China’s manufacturing sector. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan , up early in the day, was off 0.1 per cent. European stocks were seen mixed, with German equities set to gain ground following the re-election of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Financial spreadbetters expect Britain’s FTSE 100 to open around 15 points lower, or down 0.2 per cent, Germany’s DAX to open 7 points higher, or up 0.1 per cent, and France’s CAC 40 to open 8 points lower, or down 0.2 per cent. US. stock futures pointed to a slightly firmer open on Wall Street.

Some Asian markets had significant gains, thanks to a survey that showed a promising pick up in Chinese export orders, another sign of stabilisation in the world’s second biggest economy. The preliminary HSBC Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for China climbed to 51.2 in September, from August’s 50.1, with 10 out of 11 sub-indices up in the month. Dealers had looked for a reading of around 50.9. New export orders jumped to a 10-month peak of 50.8, the first time in six months that exports have grown. Readings on manufacturing across Europe are due later on Monday. Shares in Shanghai gained 1.0 per cent and Taiwan’s main index was up 0.9 per cent. South Korea firmed initially, but then was off 0.1 per cent flat. Australian shares were down 0.5 per cent and Japanese

markets were closed for a holiday.

The upbeat China survey sent the Australian dollar a quarter of a US cent higher to $0.9422. China alone takes around one-third of all Australia’s exports, chiefly commodities such as iron ore. Earlier, the euro had only the briefest of lifts from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s victory in Germany’s general election since she would still need a new coalition partner to rule. Having initially gained a quarter of a US cent to $1.3555 , it quickly faded to $1.3530. Against the yen, the common currency eased to 134.10, from an early 134.56. That left the dollar index little changed at 80.382, not far from a seven-month trough of 80.060 plumbed last week.

While Merkel won by a landslide, her conservatives appeared just short of the votes needed to rule on their own. That left open the possibility of a “grand coalition” with the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), who came a distant second. In the past, establishing a coalition accord has taken between four and eight weeks. “The formation of a grand coalition could be a positive outcome for the euro zone,” said Peter Dragicevich, a currency strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia. “The SPD is in favour of further euro zone integration. As such, a grand coalition may be more willing to work with the ECB and euro zone governments to find a sustainable solution to the issues plaguing the euro zone periphery.” He noted one of the SPD’s 2013 election policy proposals was the creation of a European debt redemption fund funded by euro zone bonds.

Last week St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard said that a start to winding down the US stimulus program was possible in October, depending on coming economic data. That was a surprise to most analysts who had thought there would not be enough fresh economic news by the October 29-30 meeting to swing the Fed from its dovish course.

“We do not expect the economy to look much different in the coming months and, in fact, some of the data on housing could look softer,” said Michelle Girard, chief economist at RBS. Girard thought it more likely the taper would begin in either December or March next year. “We think the hurdle for tightening in December is somewhat high, and thus believe that the time frame for tapering has most likely been pushed back all the way to March,” she said. If it is March, then the Fed could continue buying debt for much of 2014. That in turn would further push back the day when it might finally start raising interest rates. Some clarity might come later today since no less than three Fed officials are speaking, headlined by New York Fed President William Dudley. He is thought to be close to chairman Ben Bernanke and to speak for the dovish majority of voting members. Even the thought the Fed might start tapering in October jolted commodity markets, leaving gold down at $1,321.81 an ounce, from Thursday’s peak of $1,374.54. Copper futures were off 1.2 percent. Brent crude oil was steady at $109.20 a barrel, while US crude was also flat at $104.79.