Asian stocks bullish on U.S. jobs report

Nikkei
Nikkei quotation

Asian shares rose on Monday as surprisingly robust U.S. jobs data bolstered investors’ risk appetite, but the euro sagged on worries over a lack of progress in Greek debt restructuring talks which are vital to containing the euro zone crisis.

Financial spreadbetters expected Britain’s FTSE 100, Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC-40 to open about 0.2-0.5 percent lower.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.3 percent after climbing as much as 0.7 percent earlier to its highest in more than five months. The index recorded a fifth successive weekly gain last week.

Japan’s Nikkei average rose to a three-month high just shy of 9,000 and was last up 1 percent around 8,922.

Global economies showed further evidence of resilience last month, with U.S. jobs rising far beyond expectations while U.S. services sector activity sped to its highest in nearly a year, and the euro zone’s private sector economy grew in January for the first time since August.

But Greece remained a drag as a number of major conditions demanded by the “Troika,” representing Greece’s European Union, European Central Bank and IMF lenders, were still outstanding. Athens must tell the EU by Monday whether they accept the stern terms of a new bailout deal. Without the deal, Athens would head for a disorderly default. against a basket of key currencies gained 0.4 percent to 79.257.

After five weeks of selling, investors had cut their euro short positions, the latest figures dated January 31 showed, but the market was still significantly short on the single currency.

Markets which put more weight on uncertain prospects over the Greek bailout and demand possibly weakening bucked the rising trend in equities.

London copper fell 0.3 percent to $8,537 a tonne and Brent crude futures eased 0.1 percent to $114.50 a barrel.

“One of the key risks in the European situation is the possibility that Greece will not achieve agreement to the austerity measures being required of them,” said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst with CMC Markets in Sydney.

Spot gold rose 0.5 percent to $1,734 an ounce partly on bargain hunting after it fell nearly 2 percent on Friday when the jobs data dashed hopes for more stimulus from the Federal Reserve, which had been priced into the recent rally.

TECHNICALS EYED

Investor appetite for higher returns were highlighted by EPFR Global data which showed flows into Emerging Market Equity Funds hitting a 43-week high in the week ended February 1.

EPFR Global-tracked Bond Funds saw inflows of a net $7.47 billion during the same period for the biggest weekly total since it started tracking them about 10 years ago.

“We see value in EM assets, including currencies. EM carry trades are supported by global central banks, growth differentials, the fading risk of a hard landing in China, clean balance sheets and positioning,” Barclays Capital said in a note.

Markets may be prone for a pullback technically, however, as the rally late last week brought many near key resistance.

The CBOE Volatility index VIX, which measures expected volatility in the S&P 500 over the next 30 days, closed at a seven-month low of 17.10 on Friday, reflecting improved market sentiment and receding fears of sharp market falls.

A move to the support zone around 14-15 suggested increased volatility in coming sessions.

Asian credit markets strengthened, narrowing the spreads on the iTraxx Asia ex-Japan investment grade index sharply by more than 10 basis points to hover near its lowest level since September hit late last week.

(Additional reporting by FX analyst Krishna Kumar in Sydney and Francis Kan in Singapore; Editing by Kim Coghill)