Asia shares edge up, brush off soft China data


By Hideyuki Sano

Asian shares edged up on Monday in cautious trade, brushing off soft economic data from China, as investors looked to whether the U.S. Federal Reserve is confident enough to raise interest rates for the first time in a decade.

U.S. stock futures ESc1 rose 0.4 percent from late U.S. levels in early Asian trade while Japan’s Nikkei .N225 rose 0.4 percent. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan gained 0.3 percent.

Data published at the weekend showed growth in China’s investment and factory output missed forecasts in August, raising the chances that China’s third-quarter economic growth may dip below 7 percent for the first time since the global crisis.

The data add to expectations that Beijing will respond with more measures to prop up the economy.

“The numbers fit with our view that China will have to roll out more monetary easing,” said Fumio Nakakubo, Japan CIO at UBS’s wealth management division.

China’s output of key industrial commodities including coal and steel weakened in August, as government measures to prevent smog from affecting World War Two commemorations further cut production already lowered by a slowing economy.

Slowing demand from China are likely to keep a tab on commodity prices.

Influential Wall Street trader Goldman Sachs cut its outlook on oil late last week, lowered its 2016 forecast for U.S. crude to $45 a barrel from $57 previously, citing oversupply and concerns over China’s economy.

The investment bank said crude could even fall to near $20 a barrel.

In early trade, U.S. crude futures traded at $44.82, up 0.4 percent from last week’s close after a 3.0 percent fall last week.

Still trading in most asset classes could be subdued as investors look to whether the U.S. Fed will raise rates at its policy meeting on Sept 16-17.

“It is fair to say that the full spectrum of views is on offer. Clearly this is the most anticipated Fed meeting in a number of years,” analysts at ANZ said in a report.

A small majority of forecasters are sticking to their guns and predicting the Federal Reserve will pull the trigger next week on the first U.S. interest rate increase in nearly a decade.

Traders are pricing in smaller chance of a rate hike, however, suspecting the Fed may tread cautiously given the falls in equity markets and commodities in recent weeks.

“We think it is almost 50-50 whether the Fed will raise rates this week but we expect a rate hike by December on the grounds that the U.S. economy is pretty strong,” said UBS’s Nakakubo.

In the currency market, the dollar was little changed against major currencies.

Against the yen, it traded at 120.67 yen JPY=. The euro stood little changed at $1.1342 EUR=, holding on to last week’s 1.8 percent gain.

(Reporting by Hideyuki Sano; Additional reporting by Ian Chua in Sydney; Editing by Eric Meijer)



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