Stocks gain, dollar sags on dovish-sounding Fed

TOKYO (Reuters) – Asian stocks rose on Thursday tracking a Wall Street rally as dovish comments from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell boosted investor sentiment towards riskier assets.

A man walks past an electronic stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, November 13, 2018. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

The dollar sagged against its peers on Powell’s comments, which suggested the Fed’s interest rate hike cycle may come to an end faster than initially anticipated.

The Fed chair said on Wednesday that U.S. policy rates were “just below” neutral, less than two months after saying rates were probably “a long way” from that point.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.6 percent. Australian stocks gained 0.8 percent and Japan’s Nikkei climbed 0.9 percent.

However, while a robust Wall Street buoyed Asian shares, gains in the region were nonetheless limited ahead of a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping due to take place on the sidelines of the G20 summit.

The Dow rallied 2.5 percent and Nasdaq surged nearly 3 percent on Wednesday as Powell’s comments eased concerns of a faster pace of rate hikes in 2019.

“Equities gained as Powell hinted of implementing fewer rate hikes when the economy is still doing well,” said Masafumi Yamamoto, chief forex strategist at Mizuho Securities in Tokyo.

“The likelihood slower U.S. monetary tightening caused the dollar to slump against currencies, particularly the euro, which could soon benefit from an ECB rate hike.”

The euro was steady at $1.1366 after advancing 0.7 percent the previous day.

The dollar was little changed at 113.57 yen after being knocked down from a two-week high above 114.00 scaled overnight.

The Australian dollar, sensitive to shifts in broader risk sentiment, jumped more than 1 percent on Wednesday and last stood at 0.7306.

The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies was effectively flat at 96.828 following an overnight loss of 0.6 percent.

The U.S. two-year Treasury yield extended a modest decline from the previous day following Powell’s comments. The yield was down 1 basis point at 2.802 percent.

In commodities, U.S. crude futures were up 0.7 percent at $50.65 per barrel, paring some losses after sliding 2.5 percent the previous day.

Oil prices sank on Wednesday after U.S. crude inventories rose for the 10th straight week to the highest in a year, adding to worries about a worldwide supply glut.

Editing by Sam Holmes

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