Asia off to slow start ahead of U.S. data deluge

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Reuters-Wayne Cole

A man holding an umbrella walks in front of an electric board showing Nikkei index at a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan February 15, 2021. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon.

Asian share markets got off to a slow start on Monday as holidays in China and Japan crimped volumes and investors awaited a raft of data this week which should show the U.S. leading a global economic recovery.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan (.MIAPJ0000PUS) was all but flat after taking a bit of a spill on Friday. Japan’s Nikkei (.N225) was shut for a holiday, but Nikkei futures edged up 0.2%.

Wall Street extended its bull run with Nasdaq futures and S&P 500 futures both up 0.3%.

A busy week for U.S. economic data is expected to show resounding strength, particularly for the ISM manufacturing survey and April payrolls. Forecasts are that 978,000 jobs were created in the month as consumers spent their stimulus money and the economy opened up more.

Such gains could stir speculation of a tapering in asset purchases by the Federal Reserve, though Chair Jerome Powell has shown every sign of staying patient on policy.

“Payrolls should show another near 1 million jobs gain, but that would still leave them 7.5 million below pre-COVID levels,” said Tapas Strickland, a director of economics at NAB.

“Chair Powell recently noted that it would take a string of months of job creation of about a million a month to achieve the substantial progress required to justify tapering QE.”

Powell is due to speak later on Monday and will be followed by a raft of Fed officials this week. Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan caused a stir on Friday by calling for beginning the conversation about tapering.

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