Asia markets get lift from upbeat China, Japan data; euro ruffled by Catalan vote, Companies & Markets News & Top Stories

SYDNEY (REUTERS) – The euro took a knock in Asia on Monday (Oct 2) as investors kept an anxious eye on an independence vote in Spain’s Catalonia, while surprisingly strong economic news out of China and Japan offered support to equities and commodities.

The euro fell 0.3 per cent after the violence-marred vote to trade at US$1.1773, though European bourses seemed less troubled with financial bookmakers pointing to small opening gains for the major indices.

Spanish police used batons and rubber bullets to thwart an independence vote in Catalonia on Sunday in a show of force that left hundreds injured, according to Catalan officials, and presented Madrid with a huge challenge to calm tensions in the region.

The situation was fluid, with the head of the regional government opening the door to a potential declaration of independence from Spain.

Dealers emphasised there had been no major selling of euros as yet and neither was there any flow to safe havens, with investors reserving judgement.

As a result, the dollar was firmer on the Japanese yen at 112.86 and up 0.3 per cent on a basket of currencies at 93.349. Gold eased in response to US$1,274.24.

The dollar was aided by speculation President Donald Trump might choose former Federal Reserve Governor Kevin Warsh to head the central bank.

Warsh is considered more hawkish than current chair Janet Yellen so his appointment might lead to faster hikes in interest rates. The risk was enough to nudge yields on two-year Treasuries up to 1.503 per cent, ground not visited since late 2008.

Asian shares were faring better than bonds after upbeat economic data from China, Japan and South Korea augured well for a sustained pickup in global growth.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan added 0.27 per cent, while E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 rose 0.11 per cent.

Australia’s main index jumped 1 per cent, while Japan’s Nikkei inched up 0.14 per cent after a survey of manufacturers produced the strongest sentiment reading in a decade.

Markets in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul and Mumbai are closed on Monday for a public holiday.

China’s manufacturing activity grew at the fastest pace since 2012 in September as factories cranked up output to take advantage of strong demand and high prices.

The official Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) released on Saturday rose to 52.4 in September, from 51.7 in August.

“This was the first time new orders beat output this year, suggesting a potential ‘excess demand’ to some extent,” wrote analysts at ANZ in a note. “It also provides upside risk for Q3 GDP and our forecast of 6.7 per cent for 2017.”

Higher memory chip and steel product sales helped South Korea’s exports surge 35 per cent year-on-year to a record in September, notching the longest stretch of expansion since 2011.

China’s central bank also cut the amount of cash that some banks must hold as reserves for the first time since February 2016 in a bid to encourage more lending to struggling smaller firms and energize its lacklustre private sector.

All of which was considered positive for commodity demand. Copper enjoyed its fifth consecutive quarterly gain on expectations of strong demand from top metals consumer China.

Three-month copper rose a further 0.8 per cent on Monday to stand at US$6,534 a tonne.

In oil markets, Brent boasted its strongest third-quarter price performance since 2004 amid firm global demand and supply restrictions.

On Monday, Brent for December delivery was off 23 cents at US$56.56 a barrel, while US crude eased 15 cents to US$51.52.

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