Image: A man looks at an electronic board showing the graphs of the recent fluctuations of the exchange rate between Japanese yen against the U.S. dollar (R) and the graphs of the Japan’s Nikkei average outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, February 29, 2016. REUTERS/Yuya Shino.
By Hideyuki Sano
TOKYO (Reuters) – The dollar remained firm and Asian stocks edged higher on Monday after fairly strong consumer spending led to an upward revision in U.S. economic growth in the fourth quarter, helping to underpin investor sentiment.
“As long as the U.S. economic recovery is continuing, I would think the rally in global equity markets will continue,” said Takeru Ogihara, chief strategist at Mizuho Trust Bank.
Japan’s Nikkei gained 0.8 percent while U.S. stock futures ticked up 0.2 percent in early Asian trade, though it is still slightly down on the quarter.
Share markets in Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong were closed for holidays, leaving MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan little moved in early trade.
U.S. gross domestic product increased at a 1.4 percent annual rate in Oct-Dec, above the previously reported 1.0 percent pace, the third GDP estimate showed on Friday.
With the U.S. seen as one of the brightest spots in the global economy, signs of resilience there are pivotal to boosting market sentiment.
As investors’ risk appetite recovers, the U.S. dollar is also edging up against other major currencies.
The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies rose to 96.394, its highest in almost two weeks. The dollar rose 0.2 percent to 113.40 yen, keeping intact its steady recovery from its 6 1/2-month low of 110.67 hit on March 17.
The euro was slightly softer at $1.1160, not far from Thursday’s one-week low of $1.1144.
In the past week, the dollar has been helped by comments from some Fed officials indicating that policymakers think they could raise interest rates as early as next month.
U.S. PCE inflation data due at 1230 GMT could fan expectations of an early rate move if it’shows increasing inflationary pressure.
“The PCE inflation has been rising of late. The Fed has said the prices will be the key in determining policy so the data should attract a lot of attention,” said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management.
The annual core PCE inflation rose 1.7 percent in January, the fastest pace since July 2014.
The data will be followed by speech from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on the economic outlook and monetary policy on Tuesday. A few other Fed policymakers are also due to speak on the same day, making the Fed’s policy the biggest focus for now. [FED/DIARY]
Given that money markets are pricing in only about a 50 percent chance of a rate hike in June, with hardly any significant likelihood in April factored in, signs of a tightening in the next quarter could rattle financial markets.
In the oil market, U.S. crude futures gained 0.7 percent to $39.74 per barrel.
(Editing by Kim Coghill)
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