© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Investors stand in front of an electronic board showing stock information on the first trading day after the week-long Lunar New Year holiday at a brokerage house in Shanghai, China, February 15, 2016. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo
By Alun John
HONG KONG (Reuters) – Asian shares edged off near year-to-date lows on Wednesday despite Wall Street’s overnight declines, while New Zealand’s central bank defied expectations by not raising interest rates as the country is in lockdown due to cases of the COVID-19 Delta variant.
The New Zealand dollar, fell to a nine-month low of $0.6868 after the Reserve Bank of New Zealand’s decision, however it soon recovered, climbing to back to $0.6933, as investors absorbed projections showing policymakers still expect to raise rates over coming months.
“They’ve said no go, because you’ve got COVID and too much uncertainty. Give it a few weeks, let the smoke clear then the tightening cycle is still on the table,” said Imre Speizer, head of NZ strategy at Westpac.
In equity markets MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.45%, snapping five successive sessions of declines, but still traded close to year-to-date lows touched in July.
“A narrative around the peaking of economic growth in the second or third quarter is really hitting home,” said Kerry Craig, global market strategist at JPMorgan (NYSE:) Asset Management.
“Investors are trying balance the reopening of economies as vaccination rates go up, but also seeing the effects of the spreading Delta variant and that’s being reflected in the slowing economic data most of which has been surprising on the downside in the last two weeks,” Craig said.
China on Monday reported year-on-year GDP growth of 7.9% in the second quarter, below the 8.1% forecast in a Reuters poll of economists,
But on Wednesday sentiment was more buoyant, helped by a decline in reported COVID cases in China.
Chinese blue chips rose 0.66%, the Hong Kong benchmark gained 0.71%, and South Korean stocks rebounded from an eight-day losing streak to rise 0.82%.
Overnight, Wall Street fell after retail sales came in below expectations and valuations had become increasingly stretched. The lost 0.71% after posting a new record high on Monday.
“In today’s market we find its very difficult to find undervalued stocks to recommend to investors,” said Dave Sekera, chief U.S. market strategist at Morningstar Research Services.
U.S. stock futures, the , were little changed in Asian hours, down 0.01%.
In currency markets the dollar hit a nine-month high against the euro and held near recent peaks against other major currencies as COVID-19 concerns meant investors cut exposure to riskier currencies.
Oil edged up in Asian hours after falling for four sessions responding to the stronger dollar and worries about the rise in coronavirus cases.
ticked up 0.11% to $66.66 a barrel.
The yield on benchmark was 1.2684% compared to its U.S. close of 1.258% on Tuesday
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