Japanese stocks swung between gains and losses as investors weighed a strengthening yen with prospects for lower U.S. interest rates. Economic data released Friday did little to change the view that the Federal Reserve will take a gradual approach to raising rates.
The Topix index rose 0.6 percent to 1,309.57 at the lunch break in Tokyo, erasing a loss of 0.7 percent. The index dropped 4.7 percent last week, its worst weekly performance in two months. The Nikkei 225 Stock Average added 0.2 percent to 16,197.79. The yen traded at 111.50 per dollar after strengthening 0.8 percent on Friday. Even with signs of life in American manufacturing and jobs data that topped estimates adding to optimism in the U.S. economy, traders still don’t expect higher interest rates until the fourth quarter.
“American ISM figures were encouraging. The dollar-yen is falling for now because the Fed’s stance is taken as being a bit dovish, but that won’t continue into infinity,” said Koji Toda, chief fund manager at Resona Bank Ltd. in Tokyo. “At some point the dollar will stop falling because investors will realize the U.S. economy is, after all, quite strong. And at that time we’ll could see a sudden rebound in the value of Japanese firms that do business globally.”
Odds of a Fed hike this month remained at zero even as data for last month showed that U.S. manufacturing expanded for the first time in seven months and more workers than expected were added to nonfarm payrolls, while the jobless rate crept higher as more people sought work. Expectations for a hike in June are at 24 percent, slightly higher from 20 percent prior to the economic data.
Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index were little changed after the underlying gauge added 0.6 percent on Friday to close at the highest level this year. Optimism in the U.S. economy and expectations for only gradual Fed tightening overshadowed a selloff in oil.
Exporters led losses on Monday in Tokyo as the stronger yen and weaker-than-expected U.S. sales figures weighed on the sentiment of automakers. Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. each fell at least 2.6 percent, while Mazda Motor Corp. tumbled 5.8 percent.
Sun Corp., which surged 97 percent last month, was little changed at the lunch break after tumbling as much as 5.8 percent. Shares of the Japanese firm have risen on speculation the company’s Israeli unit is helping the FBI crack iPhones.
Kaneka Corp. surged 11 percent, the most in five years, after the Nikkei reported the chemical manufacturer has developed lithium-ion batteries that are 100 times faster than conventional technology and that can be used to charge mobile phone in 10 minutes.
Sharp Corp. jumped 5.6 percent after the Apple Inc. supplier on Saturday formally signed a rescue deal to sell a majority stake to Foxconn Technology Group. The company also said late Friday that it reached an agreement with its banks on loan terms.
Oil prices have rebounded strongly over the last few days – up around 10% from the lows – buoyed by the prospect of a lower price cap on Russian crude
By Craig Erlam, Senior Market Analyst, UK & EMEA, OANDA
We’re seeing green flashing across the board on Thursday, with sentiment buoyed by positive signals on Fed rate hikes and China’s Covid response.
While it could be argued that Jerome Powell’s comments on Wednesday were relatively balanced – slower tightening now but rates high for longer – the last year has proven that anticipating the path of inflation even a short period ahead is incredibly difficult. Knowing what the Fed intends to do next is far more valuable than what it thinks it may do 6-12 months down the line.
And anything that is perceived to reduce to possibility of an interest rate recession is going to be a positive for equity markets. The Fed has every opportunity to tighten more in the months ahead if the data doesn’t play ball. What’s far more difficult is undoing the damage caused by moving too fast now with little to no visibility on how impactful past tightening has been.
The signals coming from China also look very positive. While we shouldn’t expect a dramatic shift in policy from the leadership, particularly before the March Congress, any modest softening in its Covid-zero policy will and should be welcomed. The approach has been extremely damaging to growth and confidence and the protests highlight how public opinion towards it is changing.
We shouldn’t be naive to the fact that a move away from the policy won’t be easy and there’ll be plenty of setbacks. But it’s certainly a step in the right direction that, along with the measures announced to revive the property market, could put the economy on a much better path.
A huge few days for oil markets
Oil prices have rebounded strongly over the last few days – up around 10% from the lows – buoyed by the prospect of a lower price cap on Russian crude, another large production cut from OPEC+ this weekend, and China’s evolving Covid stance. There remains considerable uncertainty surrounding all of the above though which will likely ensure prices remain volatile going into the weekend. That could carry more risk than normal if the OPEC+ meeting does go ahead as planned on Sunday and the EU hasn’t agreed to the price cap level by the close of play Friday. The range of possibilities on these two things alone is huge which will make rumours and speculation over the coming day or two all the more impactful.
Gold testing range highs
Gold bulls were particularly happy with Powell’s comments on Wednesday with the yellow metal rallying strongly to trade at the upper end of its recent range. It faces strong resistance around $1,780 though which was a significant level of support in the first half of the year. With so much data to come over the next day or so, it may not prove particularly resilient if traders are given further hope that rates will rise more slowly and peak lower.
Some relief for cryptos
The risk relief rally is coming at just the right time for bitcoin, helping it to recover from the lows to trade around $17,000. This is around the highs of the last few weeks since it settled after its latest plunge. Whether it will be enough to revive interest in the cryptocurrency, I’m not sure. The FTX fallout is continuing to weigh heavily on the space and the prospect of more contagion or scandals is hard to ignore.
Oil Revenue into Foreign Reserve Dropped From $3bn Monthly in 2014 to Zero in 2022
The official foreign exchange receipt from crude oil sales into Nigeria’s official reserves has dried up steadily from above US$3.0 billion monthly in 2014 to an absolute zero dollar today, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Godwin Emefiele disclosed.
Speaking at the 57th annual bankers’ dinner organized by the Chartered Institute of bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) in Lagos, the CBN governor noted that there has been a significant loss in foreign reserves due to the naira’s struggle and the rise in demand for forex.
He added that the sharp increase in the number of Nigerians who are seeking education in foreign countries particularly the UK has resulted in an unprecedented demand for foreign exchange.
According to him, the number of student visas issued to Nigerians by the UK alone has increased from an annual average of about 8,000 visas as of 2020 to nearly 66,000 in 2022.
Emefiele also lamented about the level of crude oil theft in Nigeria which has significantly affected the country’s oil production. He noted that crude oil theft has adversely impacted the Country’s foreign exchange reserves.
Investors King had earlier reported that Nigeria has lost its coveted position as Africa’s largest oil producer after oil production dropped below the mark of 1 million barrels per day.
Nigeria currently trails Angola, Libya and Algeria to the fourth position.
Meanwhile, on the Naira-4-Dollar scheme which the CBN introduced to boost migrant remittances into the Nigerian economy, the CBN governor noted that the scheme has largely been successful.
“I am happy to note that, so far, the Naira-for-Dollar scheme has been successful in increasing remittance inflows through our registered International Money Transfer Organisation (IMTOs),” he said.
Emefiele also noted that the introduction of the National Domestic Card Scheme (NDCS) will help to reduce the operating cost incurred by commercial banks while using foreign cards.
It could be recalled that the CBN earlier announced that it planned to introduce Nigeria-made transactional cards to replace well-known cards such as Visa and MasterCard.
Crude Oil Gained 2% as U.S. Oil Inventories Dipped Last Week
Crude oil appreciated on Tuesday on signs global supply is declining amid better-than-expected optimism on Chinese economic recovery and a weaker dollar.
But the likelihood that OPEC+ will leave output unchanged at its upcoming meeting limited the gains.
Brent crude futures rose $2.06, or 2.48% to $85.09 per barrel by 1044 GMT. The more active February Brent crude contract rose by 2.02% to $85.95.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures climbed $1.69, or 2.16%, to $79.89.
Support followed expectations of tighter crude supply.
U.S. crude oil stocks dropped by 7.9 million barrels in the week ended Nov. 25, according to market sources citing American Petroleum Institute figures on Tuesday.
Official figures are due from the U.S Energy Information Administration on Wednesday.
And the International Energy Agency expects Russian crude production to be curtailed by some 2 million barrels of oil per day by the end of the first quarter next year, its chief Fatih Birol told Reuters on Tuesday.
On the demand side, further support came from optimism over a demand recovery in China, the world’s largest crude buyer.
China reported fewer COVID-19 infections than on Tuesday, while the market speculated that weekend protests could prompt an easing in travel restrictions.
Guangzhou, a southern city, relaxed COVID prevention rules in several districts on Wednesday.
A fall in the U.S. dollar was also bearish for prices. A weaker greenback makes dollar-denominated oil contracts cheaper for holders of other currencies, and boosts demand.
Fed Chair Jerome Powell is scheduled to speak about the economy and labour market on Wednesday, with investors looking for clues about when the Fed will slow the pace of its aggressive interest rate hikes.
Capping gains, the OPEC+ decision to hold its Dec. 4 meeting virtually signals little likelihood of a policy change, a source with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Wednesday.
“Market fundamentals favour another cut, especially given the uncertainty over China’s COVID situation … Failure to do so risks sparking another selling frenzy,” said Stephen Brennock of oil broker PVM.
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