October 24, 2019 / 12:58 AM / 2 months ago

Asian shares inch ahead as earnings, geopolitics sway sentiment

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Asian shares pulled ahead on Thursday as corporate earnings and a ceasefire in northern Syria helped prop up sentiment, though the backdrop of trade and brexit uncertainties was enough to prevent a decisive shift towards riskier assets.

FILE PHOTO: An employee of the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) looks at stock quotation board at the bourse in Tokyo Japan, October 11, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato

In early European trades, futures for the pan-region Euro Stoxx 50 STXEc1 were up 0.1% while those for Germany’s DAX FDXc1 added 0.25%. London’s FTSE futures FFIc1 were mostly flat as were U.S. stock futures ESc1.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS advanced 0.3% with Japan's Nikkei .N225 finishng up 0.55% after hitting a one-year high. Australian shares climbed 0.3%.

Risk appetite was also aided after U.S. President Donald Trump lifted sanctions on Turkey saying a ceasefire in northern Syria was now permanent.

“U.S.-China trade friction seems to be entering a truce, a no-deal Brexit looks increasingly likely to be avoided, and the U.S.’s posture against Turkey appears to have been softening,” JPMorgan analyst Tohru Sasaki wrote in a note pointing to reasons for a rally in Nikkei.

JPMorgan expects gains in the Japanese index to extend into year-end led by share buy-backs.

A private survey showed Japanese factory activity shrank at the fastest pace in over three years in October, hurt by slowing global demand and trade frictions.

Chinese shares did open higher but soon erased those gains with the blue-chip index .CSI300 easing 0.3%.

On Wall Street overnight, the Dow .DJI and the Nasdaq .IXIC added 0.2% each while the S&P 500 .SPX gained 0.3%.

Tesla (TSLA.O) shares jumped 21% in after-hours trading following a surprise third quarter profit.

Microsoft (MSFT.O) also posted forecast-beating profit and revenue numbers after the closing bell though the outlook was darkened by slower-than-expected take-up of its Azure cloud services.

Earlier, shares of U.S. industrial bellwethers Boeing Co (BA.N) and Caterpillar Inc (CAT.N) ended about 1% higher each despite big earnings misses.

RBC Capital Markets’ chief economist Tom Porcelli pointed to consistently alarming headlines since the first quarter of 2018 suggesting poor Caterpillar earnings meant a recession was round the corner, though that has yet to transpire.

“We have been down this road before with CAT,” Porcelli said in a note titled ‘Still Waiting For Recession.’

“If you keep saying a recession is here, it is a mathematical certainty that at some point you will be right,” he wrote. “Maybe try again after CAT’s next quarterly earnings report.”

So far, results from about 125 of the S&P500 companies are out with analysts expecting earnings to have declined 2.9% year-over-year, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

BREXIT BATTLE

Currency markets stuck to tight ranges ahead of key central bank meetings this week and next with the euro zone, Japan and United States due to review policy. European and U.S. manufacturing numbers are due later in the day.

Sterling GBP= paused at $1.2914 after rising 0.3% on Wednesday with Brexit developments in focus.

Britain appears closer than ever to resolving its 3-1/2-year Brexit conundrum but there are still hurdles to clear.

EU member states on Wednesday delayed a decision on whether to grant Britain a three-month Brexit extension. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said if the deadline is deferred to the end of January, he would call an election.

“The Brexit battle looks like it will drag on,” economists at ANZ wrote in a note.

“The UK government will not meet its current timetable of leaving the EU on 31 October, and an extension appears likely. In the meantime, Brexit uncertainty will keep weighing on UK business investment and activity.”

The single currency EUR=D3 was flat at $1.1132. The Japanese yen JPY= was 0.1% higher at 108.6 per dollar while the Australian dollar AUD=D3 was a tad weaker at $0.6842.

That left the dollar index .DXY slightly lower at 97.452 against a basket of six major currencies.

In commodity markets, U.S. crude CLcv1 eased 38 cents to $55.59 while Brent LCOcv1 slipped 22 cents to $60.95.

Gold XAU= was treading water at $1,491.51 an ounce.

Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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