Asian markets build on gains, dollar faces further weakness

An employee of a bank counts US dollar notes at a branch in Hanoi, Vietnam May 16, 2016. (Reuters)
Updated 03 January 2018
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Asian markets build on gains, dollar faces further weakness

HONG KONG: Asian equities continued their positive start to the year on Wednesday following yet another record close on Wall Street, but the dollar faced further selling pressure.
Analysts warned global markets could face an uncertain year as Donald Trump’s tax cuts have already been priced into valuations, while central banks are also on course to start winding back on their years of cheap money.
Investors have kicked 2018 off in buoyant mood as the world economy stirs to life and jobs creation, particularly in the US, picks up.
After Tuesday’s broad advances, Asia was given a strong lead from Wall Street where technology firms were the standout performers with Apple, Amazon and Google-parent Alphabet all gaining close to two percent.
The tech-rich Nasdaq and the S&P 500 ended at all-time highs while the Dow ended just shy of a new record.
Hong Kong ended the morning 0.3 percent higher and Shanghai added 0.9 percent, while Sydney gained 0.1 percent and Singapore put on 0.4 percent.
Seoul rose 0.3 percent, Wellington was 0.2 percent higher and Taipei jumped 0.8 percent. Tokyo was closed for a public holiday.
Tech firms were among the big winners, with AAC Technologies up three percent in Hong Kong, adding to Tuesday’s 7.5 percent jump, while Tencent rose two percent. Samsung climbed one percent in Seoul.

Winding down stimulus

Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader, warned: “The punchbowl is going to be taken away this year and for the first year in many neither the Federal Reserve nor European Central Bank, and perhaps even the Bank of Japan, will be injecting free cash into the global monetary system.
“It’s a risk that I strongly believe is under appreciated and underpriced in markets at the moment.”
The dollar weakened, with market-watchers pointing to the fact that central banks outside the US would be winding down their stimulus, bringing them into line with the Fed, which has been tightening for more than a year.
The euro was testing three-year highs, while the pound is on course to hit its best mark since mid 2016, which Britain voted to leave the European Union.
“The backdrop for the dollar is just not very good,” Mark McCormick, head of FX strategy for North America at Toronto Dominion Bank, told Bloomberg News. “The global reflation trade is progressing along.”
Oil prices were flat but sitting around two-and-half-year highs as traders keep an eye on events in Iran, where protesters have taken to the streets over economic grievances, fueling concern about the supplies from the crude-rich country.
The unrest has prompted accusations from Tehran of outside interference by the US and Saudi Arabia, and there are worries of an escalation in tensions in the powderkeg region.
“We need to watch what happens because the geopolitical risk is genuinely a factor once more in global oil markets,” said McKenna.
Bitcoin rose more than 10 percent to above $15,000, recovering some of the recent losses fueled by profit-taking in recent days. The cryptocurrency soared 25-fold over 2017 to a record high above $19,500 on December 18 before tumbling to just above $12,000 less than a week later.


Multibillion-dollar deals expected as investment forum looks east

Participants watch a movie highlighting the Red Sea project at last year’s Future Investment Initiatives conference in Riyadh. (AFP)
Updated 42 min 36 sec ago
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Multibillion-dollar deals expected as investment forum looks east

  • The Future Investment Initiative is tipped to see big investment partnerships from Russia and China
  • The FII is a key event in showcasing Saudi Arabia’s investment opportunities and economy, and linking foreign and local businessmen

RIYADH: A major investment show in Saudi Arabia is expected to attract thousands of delegates and see deals worth hundreds of billions of dollars — despite several largely “symbolic” last-minute cancelations by speakers.

The Future Investment Initiative, which starts on Tuesday, is tipped to see big investment partnerships from Russia and China, despite several executives, mostly Western, pulling out after the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Many of those Western firms have however sent lower-level representatives or regional heads — with big business likely to be done, Saudi officials said.

Speakers from the Russian Direct Investment Fund, Russia-China Investment Fund and electronics giant Samsung are all billed to speak at the event. They join Saudi speakers including Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, head of the Public Investment Fund (PIF), and sports official Princess Reema bint Bandar. 

“Investing in transformation,” “technology as opportunity” and “advancing human potential” are among the FII’s themes. Held at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh, the three-day event is billed as a “blueprint for the 22nd century.”

Ellen Wald, president of the Transversal Consulting think-tank and author of the recent book “Saudi Inc,” said many executives — notably those from Russia and further east — were still looking to do business at the event despite some having pulled out.

“I think the big pull-out of CEOs is not really reflective of the corporate interest in the Kingdom because we see them sending their next level of executives along. So to some degree it is symbolic,” she told Arab News. “In terms of attracting foreign investment, Saudi Arabia could have strategic leverage with Russia and China, and a unique opportunity to work on cutting-edge technologies.”

John Sfakianakis, director of economic research at the Gulf Research Center in Saudi Arabia, said he expected the event to be a success. 

“The FII is a key event in showcasing Saudi Arabia’s investment opportunities and economy, and linking foreign and local businessmen,” he told Arab News.