TOKYO (Reuters) – Asian shares inched higher on Tuesday after the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index closed at a record high overnight on renewed hopes for a steady U.S. recovery, but weak global growth data kept investors wary of pushing prices sharply higher.
MSCI (NYSE: MSCI – news) ‘s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.1 percent after hitting a 2-1/2-month high on Monday, when market sentiment was buoyed by a much stronger-than-expected U.S. monthly employment report late last week.
Australian shares edged up 0.1 percent while South Korean shares opened nearly flat.
“The U.S. market’s rally will help, but we probably will see caution holding back the market before key events this week including options expiry and interest rate decisions,” said Lawrence Kim, a market analyst at Woori Investment & Securities, of Seoul shares. The Bank of Korea holds a policy meeting on Thursday.
Japan’s Nikkei stock average opened 1.9 percent higher, resuming trade after a four-day long weekend.
Focus in Asia this session is on the Reserve Bank of Australia’s policy decision.
The majority of analysts polled by Reuters suspect the RBA will not alter monetary policy, but markets have priced in a 50-50 chance of a quarter point easing in the cash rate to a record low 2.75 percent.
Sean Callow, senior currency strategist at Westpac bank in Sydney, said in a research note that the RBA was likely to wait to see a capital investment survey due later this month before making any change.
“We believe it (RBA) will be very keen to see the capex intentions survey on 30 May to judge whether there really is cause to be hopeful over investment once the mining cycle has peaked later this year,” he noted.
The Australian dollar was pressured, trading down 0.1 percent at $1.0242 ahead of the decision. A steady outcome may lift the currency while a cut could spur some selling, traders said.
The euro was also on the defensive, trading at $1.3070, after it fell on Monday when European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said the bank, which cut interest rates last week, is watching economic data and is ready to take further action if needed.
Sebastien Galy, currency strategist at Societe Generale (Paris: FR0000130809 – news) said in a note to clients that the actual boost to the risk-on trade after Friday’s U.S. jobs data was very limited with some profit-taking evident and the dollar rising.
“The odds are this pattern will continue as is evident in AUD/USD and EUR/USD. The risk trade is very stretched,” he said.
The dollar was firm against the yen, trading around 99.35, possibly readying to test the symbolic 100 yen level again. The dollar hit a four-year high of 99.95 yen on April 11.
The U.S. nonfarm payrolls data caught traders off guard, as most were expecting a gloomier job market after other economic data recently pointed toward slowing growth. The U.S. jobless rate fell to 7.5 percent, the lowest since December 2008.
Other economic indicators were gloomier, with purchasing managers indexes on Monday showing recession dragged on euro zone companies and business growth flagged in China. A report on Friday also showed that U.S. corporate growth slowed in April.
On Monday, China’s HSBC (LSE: HSBA.L – news) services PMI fell to 51.1 in April from 54.3 in March, with new order expansion the slowest in 20 months and staffing levels in the service sector decreasing for the first time since January 2009.
U.S. crude futures were down 0.4 percent at $95.74 a barrel.
(Additional reporting by Jungyoun Park in Seoul; Editing by Eric Meijer)