Asia markets rise as Fed's Powell hints at rate cut ahead

Chinese stocks moved up in early trade, with other Asia markets following, after U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell signaled overnight that the U.S. central bank could be cutting interest rates soon.

The Shanghai composite added 0.82%, while both the Shenzhen component and Shenzhen composite also gained about 1%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index advanced 1.2%. 

The Nikkei 225 rose 0.3% in morning trade, while the Topix gained 0.36%. Shares of game maker Nintendo jumped more than 3.5% a day after the company announced a cheaper version of its Switch video game console.

In South Korea, the Kospi added 1.16%, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 traded 0.25% higher.

Relations between Tokyo and Seoul remain frosty, with Japan saying it would tighten restrictions on exports of three materials used in smartphone displays and chips, over a dispute with Seoul on South Koreans being forced to work for Japanese firms during World War Two.

Shares of companies potentially affected by the export curbs, such as Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix, rose 1.65% and 2.19% respectively on Thursday morning.

Overall, the MSCI Asia-ex Japan index added 0.75%.

Asia-Pacific Market Indexes Chart Fed’s Powell signals potential rate cut

Overnight stateside, the S&P 500 breached the 3,000 level for the first time, but pared gains to close 0.5% higher at 2,993.07. The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 76.71 points to finish its trading day on Wall Street at 26,860.20, while the Nasdaq Composite saw a record close at 8,202.53.

In testimony to the House Financial Services Committee, Fed Chair Powell said business investments across the U.S. have slowed “notably” recently as uncertainties over the economic outlook linger.

“Many FOMC participants saw that the case for a somewhat more accommodative monetary policy had strengthened,” Powell said in prepared remarks. “Since then, based on incoming data and other developments, it appears that uncertainties around trade tensions and concerns about the strength of the global economy continue to weigh on the U.S. economic outlook.”

“Anyone fearful that Fed chair Jay Powell might be about to cast aspersions on the likelihood of the FOMC agreeing to cut rates when it next meets on July 30th and 31st needn’t have worried, ” Ray Attrill, head of foreign exchange strategy at National Australia Bank, wrote in a morning note.

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 97.006 after slipping from levels above 97.5 yesterday.

The Japanese yen traded at 108.08 against the dollar after strengthening from levels above 108.5 in the previous session, while the Australian dollar was at $0.696 after bouncing from levels below $0.695 yesterday.

Oil prices were mixed in the morning of Asian trading hours, with the international benchmark Brent crude futures contract fractionally lower at $66.97 per barrel, while U.S. crude futures added 0.22% to $60.56 per barrel.

The moves came after oil prices surged more than 4% on Wednesday following a larger-than-expected decline in U.S. crude inventories as well as the evacuation of rigs in the Gulf of Mexico by major producers prior to an expected storm.

Here’s a look at the data set to be released in the trading day ahead:

China vehicle sales for June OPEC monthly report

— Reuters and CNBC’s Fred Imbert contributed to this report.

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