Asia Stocks Set to Edge Higher; Bond Yields Drift: Markets Wrap

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Asia stocks looked set for muted gains after a lackluster session for U.S. shares. The dollar and Treasury yields dipped.

Futures edged higher in Japan, Hong Kong and Australia. The S&P 500 Index closed little changed, within 1% of a record, as gains in software companies offset losses for carmakers. After getting a boost from positive comments on trade by White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow early in the day, equities took a leg down after a report about a U.S. official threatening steeper tariffs against China. In China, all eyes will be on the Loan Prime Rate – a new gauge of borrowing costs.

After a slew of monetary policy decisions this week investors will now shift their focus to the outlook for negotiations between the U.S. and China as trade deputies from both nations are set to meet. Concerns remain about the state of the global economy, with the OECD lowering its world growth forecast to 2.9% from 3.2% as intensifying trade conflicts take a toll on confidence.

Elsewhere, oil steadied amid contrasting reports about whether Saudi Arabia asked Iraq for crude to supply its domestic refineries. In India, central bank Governor Shaktikanta Das said there’s room for interest rate cuts to spur economic growth given stable and below-target inflation.

Some key events to keep an eye on for the remainder of this week:

  • Friday is quadruple witching day for U.S. markets. When the quarterly expiration of futures and options on indexes and stocks occurs on the same day, increased volatility and trading can follow.

Here are the main moves in markets:

Stocks

  • The S&P 500 was little changed on Thursday.
  • Futures on Japan’s Nikkei 225 advanced 0.2%.
  • Hang Seng futures earlier added 0.1%.
  • Futures on Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index gained 0.1%.

Currencies

  • The yen was at 108.03 per dollar.
  • The offshore yuan held at 7.1004 per dollar.
  • The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index slid 0.1%.
  • The euro bought $1.1043.

Bonds

  • The yield on 10-year Treasuries fell two basis points to 1.78%.

Commodities

  • West Texas Intermediate crude rose 1% to 58.68 a barrel.
  • Gold was at $1,499.01 an ounce.

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