- Asian Stocks Gain on Move by China’s Central Bank, but Trade War Weighs
Asian stocks rose on Monday after China’s central bank took steps to try to drag the yuan away from 14-month lows, but the tit-for-tat conflict over Sino-U.S. trade hung heavily on markets.
The People’s Bank of China late on Friday raised the reserve requirement on foreign exchange forward positions, making it more expensive to bet against the Chinese currency.
The move boosted the Australian dollar, which is often played as a liquid proxy for the yuan. The Aussie came off two-week lows to climb as high as $0.7412 after the announcement, and was last at $0.7396.
Analysts say the step by the PBOC will be generally positive for Asian assets.
“Leaning against bearish CNY sentiment is important because a rapidly weakening currency risks triggering residential outflows and destabilizing domestic asset prices,” JPMorgan analysts said in a note.
“Our economists think that PBOC likely will take further action if CNY depreciation continues or capital outflow pressure increases.”
On Monday, MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan climbed 0.2 percent for a second straight session of gains.
Japan’s Nikkei edged up 0.1 percent, while Australian shares added 0.5 percent. South Korea’s KOSPI index rose 0.4 percent.
On Wall Street, the Dow climbed 0.54 percent, the S&P 500 gained 0.46 percent and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.12 percent. They were helped by strong corporate earnings, although gains were capped by worries over the escalating trade tensions.
China’s finance ministry proposed tariffs on $60 billion worth of U.S. goods on Friday, while a senior Chinese diplomat cast doubt on prospects of talks with Washington to resolve the bitter trade conflict.
That was followed by a report in China’s state media saying Friday’s retaliatory tariffs were “rational” while accusing the United States of blackmail.
At the same time, U.S. President Donald Trump said his strategy of placing steep tariffs on Chinese imports is “working far better than anyone ever anticipated”, citing losses in China’s stock market. He predicted the U.S. market could “go up dramatically” once trade deals were renegotiated.
“Our economists consider that escalation in tension may bring the U.S. and China back to the negotiation table, but that even if negotiations are resumed, a bumpy and lengthy process is likely to ensue as the two sides remain very far apart,” JPMorgan added.
According to Bespoke Investment Group, mentions of tariffs in S&P 500 company earnings reports for the second quarter have more than doubled from the first quarter of this year.
In currencies, the dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of six other currencies, was up 0.1 percent at 95.259.
Traders see further upside in the dollar as they maintained a significantly large long position on the currency, while net short bets on the Aussie were their largest since November 2015.
The British pound held at $1.30 after falling to an 11-day low of $1.2975 following remarks by Bank of England Governor Mark Carney that Britain faced an “uncomfortably high” risk of a “no deal” Brexit.
The euro inched down to more than 5-week lows of $1.1573.
Gold bounced from near 17-month lows after weaker-than-expected U.S. jobs data, and was last up 0.1 percent at $1,213.70.
Meanwhile, Brent crude futures were off 2 cents at $73.19, while U.S. crude oil futures were up 9 cents at $68.58 a barrel.
Oil Prices Recover Slightly Amidst Demand Concerns in U.S. and China
Oil Prices Continue Slide as Market Skepticism Grows Over OPEC+ Cuts
Global oil markets witnessed a continued decline on Wednesday as investors assessed the impact of extended OPEC+ cuts against a backdrop of diminishing demand prospects in China.
Brent crude oil, the international benchmark for Nigerian crude oil, declined by 63 cents to $76.57 a barrel while U.S. WTI crude oil lost 58 cents to $71.74 a barrel.
Last week, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, collectively known as OPEC+, agreed to maintain voluntary output cuts of approximately 2.2 million barrels per day through the first quarter of 2024.
Despite this effort to tighten supply, market sentiment remains unresponsive.
“The decision to further reduce output from January failed to stimulate the market, and the recent, seemingly coordinated, assurances from Saudi Arabia and Russia to extend the constraints beyond 1Q 2024 or even deepen the cuts if needed have also fallen to deaf ears,” noted PVM analyst Tamas Varga.
Adding to the unease, Saudi Arabia’s decision to cut its official selling price (OSP) for flagship Arab Light to Asia in January for the first time in seven months raises concerns about the struggling demand for oil.
Amid the market turmoil, concerns over China’s economic health cast a shadow, potentially limiting fuel demand in the world’s second-largest oil consumer.
Moody’s recent decision to lower China’s A1 rating outlook from stable to negative further contributes to the apprehension.
Analysts will closely watch China’s preliminary trade data, including crude oil import figures, set to be released on Thursday.
The outcome will provide insights into the trajectory of China’s refinery runs, with expectations leaning towards a decline in November.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s diplomatic visit to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia has added an extra layer of complexity to the oil market dynamics.
Discussions centered around the cooperation between Russia, the UAE, and OPEC+ in major oil and gas projects, highlighting the intricate geopolitical factors influencing oil prices.
U.S. Crude Production Hits Another Record, Posing Challenges for OPEC
U.S. crude oil production reached a new record in September, surging by 224,000 barrels per day to 13.24 million barrels per day.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported a consecutive monthly increase, adding 342,000 barrels per day over the previous three months, marking an annualized growth rate of 11%.
The surge in domestic production has led to a buildup of crude inventories and a softening of prices, challenging OPEC⁺ efforts to stabilize the market.
Despite a decrease in the number of active drilling rigs over the past year, U.S. production continues to rise.
This growth is attributed to enhanced drilling efficiency, with producers focusing on promising sites and drilling longer horizontal well sections to maximize contact with oil-bearing rock.
While OPEC⁺ production cuts have stabilized prices at relatively high levels, U.S. producers are benefiting from this stability.
The current strategy seems to embrace non-OPEC non-shale (NONS) producers, similar to how North Sea producers did in the 1980s.
Saudi Arabia, along with its OPEC⁺ partners, is resuming its role as a swing producer, balancing the market by adjusting its output.
Despite OPEC’s inability to formally collaborate with U.S. shale producers due to antitrust laws, efforts are made to include other NONS producers like Brazil in the coordination system.
This outreach aligns with the historical pattern of embracing rival producers to maintain control over a significant share of global production.
In contrast, U.S. gas production hit a seasonal record high in September, reaching 3,126 billion cubic feet.
However, unlike crude, there are signs that gas production growth is slowing due to very low prices and the absence of a swing producer.
Gas production increased by only 1.8% in September 2023 compared to the same month the previous year.
While the gas market is in the process of rebalancing, excess inventories may persist, keeping prices low.
The impact of a strengthening El Niño in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean could further influence temperatures and reduce nationwide heating demand, impacting gas prices in the coming months.
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