HONG KONG (AP) — Most Asian stock indexes rallied Friday, tracing gains on Wall Street after weaker than expected inflation figures soothed concerns about a possible acceleration of interest rate hikes. European stocks faltered ahead of a speech by the European Central Bank chief.
KEEPING SCORE: European shares were mostly lower in early trading. France’s CAC 40 lost 0.3 percent to 5,530.22 and Germany’s DAX dipped 0.3 percent to 12,988.69. Britain’s FTSE 100 was nearly flat at 7,702.66. Wall Street was poised to open higher. Dow futures gained 0.1 percent to 24,723.00 and broader S&P 500 futures added 0.1 percent to 2,721.00.
ASIAN SCORECARD: Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 rose 1.2 percent to close at 22,758.48 and South Korea’s Kospi added 0.6 percent to 2,477.71. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng jumped 1.0 percent to 31,122.06 but the Shanghai Composite slipped 0.4 percent to 3,163.26. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 edged 0.1 percent lower to 6,116.20. Indexes in Taiwan’s and Southeast Asia were higher.
INFLATION: U.S. consumer prices rose a modest 0.2 percent in April, indicating that that broader inflation pressure in the world’s No. 1 economy remains muted. Slower growth in core prices may relieve pressure on the Federal Reserve to accelerate interest rate hikes. The U.S. central bank is expected to lift rates three times this year, but some analysts believe an uptick in inflation or economic growth might spur the Fed to add another hike. Other releases on Thursday added to signs of tempered global inflation: Chinese consumer prices rose 1.8 percent in April, slower than the previous month’s 2.1 percent, while the Bank of England held off on raising rates, citing weaker than expected price growth.
MARKET INSIGHT: “While inflation is continuing to trend up it’s only happening slowly. So Goldilocks continues,” said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital. The Fed will keep “normalizing, but for now it can remain gradual, with the next hike still on track for June.”
EUROPEAN MEETING: Mario Draghi, the European Central Bank’s president, is scheduled to speak on the first day of a two-day EU State of the Union meeting in Italy. Markets are awaiting his comments on the outlook for the eurozone’s economy and the bank’s stimulus plans.
SINGAPORE MEETING: Geopolitical uncertainty eased after news that a highly anticipated meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will happen June 12 in Singapore. The confirmation follows the return of three Americans held by Kim’s government.
ENERGY: Oil futures were at their highest level since 2014 as President Donald Trump’s decision this week to re-impose sanctions Iran, the world’s fifth-biggest oil producer, reverberated. Benchmark U.S. crude oil climbed 8 cents to $71.44 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 22 cents to settle at $71.36 a barrel on Thursday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 7 cents to $77.40 per barrel.
CURRENCIES: The dollar slipped to 109.27 from 109.39 yen in late trading Thursday. The euro rose to $1.1926 from $1.1916.
– Here are the top five things you need to know in financial markets on Friday, May 11:
1. Dow on track for 7th day of gains after entering into positive territory
U.S. futures pointed to a mixed open on Friday, but the Dow looked to be on track for a seventh consecutive session of gains. The blue-chip index ended Thursday back in positive territory for 2018 and is up around 2% this week so far. At 5:47AM ET (9:47GMT), the blue-chip Dow futures gained 27 points, or 0.11%, S&P 500 futures edged forward 2 points, or 0.07%, while the Nasdaq 100 futures slipped 4 points, or 0.06%.
Elsewhere, European stocks were mostly lower in midday trade on Friday, turning negative after a slightly positive open. Investors seemed unwilling to continue buying going into the weekend despite mostly positive earnings and more deal-making. Even with Friday’s dip, the pan-European Stoxx 600 was still headed for its seventh week of increases, the longest streak in more than three years.
Earlier, Asian stocks closed mostly higher on Friday as investors’ appetite for riskier assets got a boost from soft U.S. inflation released a day earlier, which helped alleviate worries of faster rate hikes by the Federal Reserve, and showed optimism over the announcement that U.S. President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will meet in Singapore on June 12. Japan’s Nikkei finished with gains of 1.2%.
Chinese stocks broke the general trend as the Shanghai Composite ended 0.4% lower. Traders continued to be concerned about ongoing trade tensions. U.S. and Chinese officials will meet in Washington for a second round of trade talks next week.
2. Dollar flat while waiting to measure consumer confidence
The dollar hovered below a four-and-a-half month high against a basket of major currencies on Friday after tepid U.S. inflation data released a day earlier prompted traders to pare bets of faster rate hikes.
At 5:48AM ET (9:48GMT), the U.S. dollar index, which measures the greenback’s strength against a trade-weighted basket of six major currencies, fell 0.15% at 92.41.
U.S. consumer prices rose less than expected in April, which would support gradual, rather than more aggressive, tightening by the Federal Reserve.
With that in mind, investors looked ahead to speech from St. Louis Fed president James Bullard at 8:30AM ET (12:30GMT).
In economic data, the focus will be on the University of Michigan’s preliminary reading of consumer confidence in May due out at 10:00AM ET (14:00GMT).
3. Oil on track for weekly gains of 2% ahead of U.S. drilling data
Oil prices struggled for direction on Friday but were on track for strong weekly gains as support from expectations that renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran would further tighten global supply began to wane.
West Texas and Brent were still on track for weekly gains of around 2.2% and 3.2%, respectively as investors turned their attention to the weekly installment of drilling activity from Baker Hughes.
Last week’s data showed that U.S. drillers added nine oil rigs, bringing the total count to 834, the highest number since March 2015.
Market participants remain concerned that rising U.S. shale output could offset OPEC-led attempts to curb production in order to reduce the global supply glut.
4. Nvidia drops from record high; Symantec crashes
As the last wave of first quarter earnings season winds down this week, with the only notable release on Friday coming from Thomson Reuters (NYSE:TRI), Nvidia reported numbers after the prior close that beat on both the top and bottom lines, supported by strong growth in its datacenter and gaming divisions.
Despite the positive numbers, the chipmakers’ shares (NASDAQ:NVDA) dropped around 2% in pre-market trade on Friday. They had closed at a record high of $260.13 on Thursday prior to the release.
In another big move in the tech sector, shares in Symantec (NASDAQ:SYMC) crashed more than 20% in pre-market trade Friday. Sales and profit beat consensus but guidance was weak and the cybersecurity firm disclosed an internal investigation and that it has voluntarily contacted the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The company warned that the investigation could lead to updates of its financial results and guidance.
5. Trump to reveal drug pricing plan
President Trump will reveal his long-awaited plan to lower drug prices on Friday afternoon.
The pharmaceutical sector was on edge given past remarks from the President that they were “getting away with murder” in reference to the high costs of name-brands.
Trump apparently intends to reveal strategies bring down U.S. drug prices and reduce the amount people pay out of pocket for their medications.