Asian shares to pause ahead of China data, U.S. ‘altitude sickness’

Asian shares were set for a largely flat start on Friday as markets weighed a pause in Wall Street’s multi-month stock rebound and awaited the release of Chinese economic data later in the session. FILE PHOTO: A visitor wearing protective face mask, following an outbreak of the coronavirus, walks past in front of a stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan March 2, 2020. REUTERS/Issei KatoAustralian S&P/ASX 200 futures were down 0.05%, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 futures were up 0.06% after the Nikkei 225 index closed up 1.78% at 23,249.61​​​​ on Thursday. The futures contract is down 0.11% from that close​. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index futures were down 0.13%. The S&P 500 ended slightly lower on Thursday after briefly trading above its record closing high level for a second day, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average also dipped in the wake of a disappointing forecast from Cisco Systems Inc. The Nasdaq Composite, boosted by Apple Inc, nudged higher. Wall Street’s hesitation came as U.S. lawmakers continued to battle over a new economic stimulus package and after a report from the U.S. Labor Department showed the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits dropped below one million last week for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic - not enough to change economists’ views that the jobs market recovery was faltering. “Many say that the best treatment for altitude sickness is to stop and rest where you are,” Rodrigo Catril, Senior FX Strategist at National Australia Bank in Sydney, wrote in a note about the slight pullback in U.S. stocks and government bonds. E-mini futures for the S&P 500 rose 0.13%. MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe shed 0.04%. The dollar index fell 0.141%. The Japanese yen weakened 0.03% versus the greenback at 106.96 per dollar; The Australian dollar rose 0.03% versus the greenback at $0.715 and the offshore Chinese yuan weakened to 6.9485 per dollar. Joseph Capurso, Head of International Economics at Commonwealth Bank of Australia in Sydney, said economic data expected later on Friday from China would drive trading in the Australian dollar and Chinese currency. “We anticipate July retail sales, industrial production and fixed asset investment will all point to a continued robust recovery in China,” he wrote. “The China‑led, commodity‑heavy, recovery in the global economy supports commodity currencies such as AUD.” Benchmark U.S. Treasury yields surged to seven-week highs on Thursday after the Treasury sold a record amount of 30-year bonds to weak demand. Ten-year yields were last at 0.718%, after earlier reaching 0.727%, the highest since June 24. They are up from 0.504% last Thursday, which was the lowest since March 9. Oil prices eased on Thursday after a weaker demand forecast, but the weak dollar limited losses as traders kept an eye on U.S. stimulus headlines. U.S. crude was up 0.24% to $42.34 per barrel while Brent settled Thursday’s session at $44.96. Spot gold added 0.3% to $1,958.07 an ounce.

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