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Asian stocks rise on rate-cut wagers; spotlight on India

Asian stocks rose on Wednesday, while the dollar was steady as a softening U.S. labour market firmed up bets of an interest rate cut in September from the Federal Reserve ahead of a crucial payrolls report this week.

Investor worries of a cooling U.S. economy, however, kept a lid on risk appetite, while the focus in Asia is on how Indian markets fare after stocks sank and the rupee slid on Tuesday following voting results that showed a slimmer-than-expected victory margin for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.24%, while the Nikkei fell 1% as the Japanese yen flirted with two-week highs.

China stocks were mixed, with the blue-chip CSI300 index little changed in early trading, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 1%.

China’s services activity in May accelerated at the quickest pace in 10 months while staffing levels expanded for the first time since January, a private sector survey showed, pointing to sustained recovery in the second quarter.

Data overnight showed U.S. job openings fell more than expected in April to the lowest level in more than three years, a sign that labour market conditions are softening.

The data emboldened bets of rate cuts this year, with markets pricing in 45 basis points of easing. Traders are also pricing in a 65% chance of a rate cut in September, compared to 46% a week earlier, CME FedWatch tool showed.

“While this (job openings data) should have no bearing on Friday’s payrolls, it does look to confirm that the U.S. labour market is softening,” said ING economists.

Benchmark 10-year note yields were at 4.3376% in Asian hours, after hittingan almost three-week low of 4.314 on Tuesday following the jobs data. 

The dollar index, which measures the U.S. currency against six rivals, was steady at 104.14 in early trading, after touching a near two-month low of 103.99 on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, futures pointed to a subdued open for India’s Nifty 50 index after sliding nearly 6% on Tuesday, their worst session in four years, with foreign investors selling roughly $1.5 billion worth of shares.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party lost its own majority in parliament for the first time in a decade and is dependent on its regional allies to get past the half-way mark required to run the world’s largest democracy.

That has stoked some uncertainty over economic policies, including a push for investment-led growth, which has been the cornerstone of the Modi government’s rule.

Huzaifa Husain, head of India equities at PineBridge Investments, said the less definitive than expected result might impact market sentiment in the short term, particularly in relation to weaker stocks.

“Nonetheless, looking ahead, we expect the Indian economy to continue its robust growth trajectory.”

In commodities, oil prices extended losses slightly from the previous session in early Asian trading on growing worries around demand after an industry report showed builds in U.S. crude and fuel stockpiles.

Brent crude futures eased 0.1% to $77.47 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures fell 0.12 to $73.16 a barrel.

(Reuters)

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