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March 9, 2021

Asia stocks join rally, uncertainty keeps bonds bid

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By Wayne Cole

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Asian share markets joined a global rally on Wednesday as the immediate impact of Britain’s vote to leave began to wane and investors wagered central banks would have to ride to the rescue with more stimulus measures.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> rose 0.5 percent, but remained a long way from its pre-vote levels. Japan’s Nikkei <.N225> climbed 1.1 percent, while Australian stocks <.AXJO> added 1 percent.

Any bounce was welcome, given global equity markets shed $3 trillion in value in the two days following Britain’s shock vote, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices. Investors also pointed to solid U.S. economic data as helping to steady the ship.

Yet Britain’s course out of the EU remains unknown, leaving the future of the entire bloc and its currency an open question.

“The only certainty in Europe is uncertainty,” said analysts as Australia and New Zealand Bank in a note.

“European leaders appear to want to move forward with Brexit plans as quickly as possible, but political turmoil within Britain suggests a quick turnaround is unlikely.”

The unease was evident in sterling which managed only a meager bounce to $1.3350 <GBP=>, not that far from a 31-year low of $1.3122 and down 10 percent from early Friday.

The euro regained a little ground to $1.1072 <EUR=>, while the safe-haven yen faded a touch to 102.60 per dollar <JPY=>.

For now, investors are counting on central banks to step in with fresh stimulus to support markets over time.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged the Bank of Japan to provide ample funds to ensure market liquidity.

In the first of Federal Reserve policymakers to comment since the vote, Governor Jerome Powell said it had shifted global risks “to the downside.”

That only reinforced market expectations the Fed will no longer be able to hike U.S. rates this year, and could even be forced to cut if the domestic economy falters.


On Wall Street, the Dow <.DJI> rose 1.57 percent, while the S&P 500 <.SPX> gained 1.78 percent and the Nasdaq <.IXIC> 2.12 percent. Badly beaten-down financials <.SPSY> and tech stocks <.SPLRCT> were among the top gaining sectors.

The calmer mood was reflected in the CBOE Volatility Index <.VIX> which fell about 21 percent to close to where it was before the vote. It was its largest one-day percentage decline since August 2011.

Aiding sentiment were data showing the U.S. economy grew at a 1.1 percent annualized rate in the first quarter, rather than the 0.8 percent pace reported last month.

Yet concerns about the impact of Brexit on global growth and all the talk that central banks might have to ease anew to offset it, kept sovereign bonds well supported.

Yields on U.S. 10-year notes <US10YT=RR> held at 1.461 percent, just above a near four-year low of 1.406 percent hit on Friday. German <DE10YT=RR> and Japanese bonds <JP10YT=RR> are well into record territory and paying negative yields.

Indeed, all Japanese bonds out to 30 years now pay less than 0.1 percent, a nightmare for pension funds and insurers desperate for a “decent” return.

In commodity markets, gold stepped back after two heady days. Spot gold <XAU=> was holding at $1,314.40 an ounce, but off an earlier low of $1,305.23.

Oil prices gained on potential supply outages and drawdowns in crude. U.S. crude oil futures <CLc1> were up 28 cents at $48.13, while Brent crude <LCOc1> rose 17 cents to $48.75.

(Reporting by Wayne Cole; Editing by Eric Meijer)

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