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Friday, May 24, 2024

Steady Performance from Stocks and Yen as U.S. Payrolls Loom

Global shares were firmer on Friday ahead of key U.S. non-farm payroll numbers, underpinned by reassurance from the Federal Reserve that the next move in rates would be down.

The yen recovering from 34-year lows was the focus in Asia, capping a tumultuous week that saw suspected intervention from Japanese authorities, leaving the dollar on the back foot. Asian shares surged to their highest in 15 months on Friday led by tech and Hong Kong stocks.

Oil edged higher on the prospect of OPEC+ continuing output cuts, but the crude benchmarks were headed for the steepest weekly losses in three months on demand uncertainty and easing tensions in the Middle East reducing supply risks.

The MSCI All Country stock index (.MIWD00000PUS), was up 0.23% at 762.23 points, down 3% from its lifetime high in March as investors reassessed when central banks will start cutting interest rates in the face of stickier-than-expected inflation.

In Europe, the STOXX index (.STOXX), of 600 companies was up 0.2% at 504.19 points.

The Federal Reserve’s signal that the next move in rates would be down has been well received by many investors, helping to put a floor under markets that were also being aided by corporate earnings that are coming in above expectations in the United States, said Eren Osman, wealth management director at Arbuthnot Latham.

“There is an increasingly valid case to be put forward that you can see economic activity and earnings growth remaining resilient in a higher interest rate environment,” Osman said.

“I think it will take a little while for many to get used to that after coming out of a such a low interest rate environment for a long period,” Osman added.

U.S. stock index futures , , were firmer as investors waited for the payrolls figures before the opening bell on Wall Street, where Apple (AAPL.O), is a focus after the iPhone maker unveiled a record $110 billion share buyback after the close on Thursday.

Nonfarm payrolls likely increased by 243,000 jobs last month after rising 303,000 in March, according to a Reuters survey of economists, with the unemployment rate seen steady.

“Today’s U.S. jobs figures will be a real pivotal event for FX. Our call is for a slightly softer than consensus print of 210,000, which can keep the dollar soft,” analysts at ING bank said in a note.


Markets in Japan and mainland China were closed on Friday. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan (.MIAPJ0000PUS),  surged to 550.49, its highest since February 2023.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index (.HSI), opens new tab rose 1.36%, on track for a ninth consecutive day of gains and on its the longest winning streak since January 2018.

The spotlight for much of the week has been on the yen , which was trading at 153.300 per dollar on Friday, having started the week by touching a 34-year low of 160.245 on Monday.

In between, traders suspect the authorities stepped in on at least two days this week and data from the BOJ suggests Japanese officials may have spent roughly $60 billion to defend the beleaguered yen, leaving trading desks across the globe on high alert for further moves by Tokyo.

A series of Japanese public holidays as well as Monday’s holiday in Britain – the world’s biggest FX trading centre – could present a possible window for further intervention by Tokyo. Japanese markets are also closed on Monday.

The dollar index , which measures the U.S. currency against six peers, was last at 105.28. The index is set to clock a 0.8% decline for the week, its worst weekly performance since early March.

In commodities, U.S. crude rose 0.38% to $79.27 per barrel and Brent was at $84.04, up 0.4% on the day.

Spot gold eased 0.2% to $2,299 an ounce and was set for a second straight weekly decline.

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