Asian shares extend rally, U.S. earnings to test optimism

FILE PHOTO: A man wearing protective face mask, following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), walks in front of a stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, March 10, 2020. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Asian shares crept toward five-month peaks on Monday as investors wagered the U.S. earnings season would see most companies beat forecasts given expectations had been lowered so far by coronavirus lockdowns.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan added 0.15%, having climbed sharply last week on the back of surging Chinese stocks, which added another 1% on Monday..

Japan’s Nikkei gained 1.7% and South Korea 1.2%. E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 rose 0.5% even as some U.S. states reported record new cases of COVID-19, a divergence that shows no sign of stopping.

EUROSTOXX 50 futures added 1.1% and FTSE futures 0.8%.

“Ongoing grim U.S. COVID-19 infection news continues to be summarily ignored in favour of ongoing optimism regarding the time-line for the discovery and rapid roll-out of an effective vaccine and/or more policy support for asset prices and the U.S. economy,” said Ray Attrill, head of FX strategy at NAB.

“JP Morgan, Citigroup, and Wells Fargo all report on Tuesday and there’s a view that the bar has been set pretty low for them to report the almost obligatory ‘better than expected’ results – the absence of forward guidance from many firms notwithstanding.”

Wednesday sees Goldman Sachs and Bank of NY report, while Thursday has Netflix and Morgan Stanley.

While bank shares rose sharply on Friday they have been badly lagging technology stocks, with analysts at Bank of America noting tech outperformance in the past six months was greatest since the 1999 tech bubble and the 2008 global financial crisis.

If the S&P 500 was just “tech, health care, Amazon, Google” the index would now be 4,173, they wrote in a note, way above the current level of 3,185. If made up of everything else, it would be 2,924.

“Central banks are crushing rate expectations, forcing risk-taking in credit markets,” they added.

Yields on U.S. 10-year notes came close to record lows last week at 0.569% and were last at 0.63%.

Super-low rates have in turn been a boon for non-yielding gold which hit a near nine-year high after five straight weeks of gains.

The hunt for yield has tended to benefit emerging market currencies and those leveraged to commodities such as the Australian dollar, while weighing on the U.S dollar.

Against a basket of currencies, the dollar was off at 96.585 on Monday and not far from the June trough of 95.714.

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