East Timor Inflation Rate at 28-Month High in February
East Timor's annual inflation increased to a 28-month high of 2.5 percent in February 2021 from 2.0 percent in the previous month. Main upward pressures mainly came from food & non-alcoholic beverages (4 percent vs 3.3 percent in January), alcohol & tobacco (5.5 percent vs 5.3 percent), housing (0.3 percent vs 0.1 percent), and furnishings & household equipment (0.1 percent vs -0.8 percent). In contrast, cost fell for both transport (-1.1 percent vs -1.2 percent) and clothing & footwear (-0.1 percent vs 0.2 percent). On a monthly basis, consumer prices went up by 0.4 percent in February, the least in three months, after gaining 1.0 percent in January.
China Shanghai Composite Climbs Nearly 1%
The Shanghai Composite Index jumped 22 points or almost 1% to a near two-week high of 3,460 in early trade on Monday after Friday's 3.86% plunge, amid further signs of economic recovery at home and abroad. Official data showed the Chinese economy in Q1 has fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels, growing at a record pace of 18.3% yoy. In the US, meantime, homebuilding surged to nearly a 15-year high in March, while retail sales grew robustly, and jobless claims hit the lowest level in 13 months. On the pandemic front, the mainland had 11 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, down from 16 a day earlier. In business news, Reuters said that Ant Group is exploring options for founder Jack Ma to divest his stake in the company and give up control. All major sectors were in the green, with consumer staples, technology, and basic materials among top performers.
Singapore Stocks at Near 14-Month High
The STI went up 4 points or 0.1% to a near 14-month high of 3,205 in early deals on Monday, amid optimism about a robust global economic recovery. Data in the US showed housing starts rose the most since 2006 in March, while figures released earlier pointed to a strong rebound in both consumer spending and the job market. Meantime, the Chinese economy grew by a record 18.3% yoy in Q1, while other key reading for March, including industrial output and retail sales, also showed a continuing rebound. In business news, Grab Holdings, a ride-hailing to delivery giant, is considering a secondary listing in its home market of Singapore after completing a Nasdaq listing via a $40 billion SPAC merger, reported Reuters. Investors now anticipate the release of the consumer price index for March later in the week. Yangzijiang Shipbuilding and Sembcorp Industries gained 5.4% and 4.1%, each.
Stocks in Hong Kong Hit 4-week High
Hang Seng increased to a 4-week high of 29153
Japanese Yen Little Moved at 3-Week Highs
The Japanese Yen held at 3-week highs of 108.745 on Monday as investors weighed robust US economic data with surging novel coronavirus infection rates domestically. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike noted that she might issue a fresh coronavirus state of emergency for the capital to deal with a recent spike in coronavirus cases after the nationwide tally surpassed 4000 for a 5th consecutive day Sunday. Local 10-year rates were at 0.092% while US 10-year rates were near 5-week lows of 1.566%. In the US, housing starts rose to the highest level since 2006, pointing to a strong rebound in both consumer spending and the jobs market, while data last week showed that some parts of the economy, like retail sales, have returned to or exceeded pre-pandemic levels, while jobless claims hit the lowest level in 13 months. In local data, exports jumped 16.1% yoy to a near 3-year high March, while imports rose by 5.7% yoy to a 14-month high over the same period.
Japanese Shares Trade Lower in Early Deals
The NIKKEI 225 fell 18.57 points or 0.06% to 29664.8 on Monday, following losses of 0.63% in the previous week as traders remained cautious amid an increasing novel coronavirus caseload. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said Sunday she might ask the central government to issue a fresh coronavirus state of emergency for the capital to deal with a recent spike in coronavirus cases as the nationwide tally surpassed 4000 for a 5th consecutive day Sunday. Meantime, a Kyodo News survey showed Sunday that 22% of major companies in Japan are planning to cut new hires for the business year starting next April from the current year, indicating many firms remain cautious about the outlook amid the coronavirus pandemic. In local data, exports jumped 16.1% yoy to a near 3-year high March, while imports rose by 5.7% yoy to a 14-month high over the same period.
Taiwan Consumer Morale Improves to 12-Month High
Consumer confidence in Taiwan increased to 76.52 in March of 2021 from 74.64 a month earlier. This was the highest reading since March last year, as four out of six of indicators improved: the timing to invest in stock markets (up 5.4 points to 52.5), employment opportunities (up 4.2 points to 70.55), the domestic economic outlook (up 1.55 points to 89.50), and the family economic outlook (up 1.30 points to 91.95) Meanwhile, households' assessment deteriorated for both domestic prices in the next six months (down 0.15 points to 43.00) and the timing for buying durable goods (down 1.05 points to 111.60).
South Korean Shares Open at 4-Month Highs
The KOSPI added 12.49 points or 0.39% to a 4-month peak of 3211.11 in early Monday trade, trading just 1.6% from all time highs as risk sentiment lifted on expectations of a global economic rebound. US 10-year rates were near 5-week lows of 1.566%, despite strong US inflation and recent employment data. On the coronavirus front, the KDCA reported 672 more COVID-19 cases as sporadic infections continue to pop up across the nation, complicating antivirus efforts against the 4th wave of the pandemic. Last week, the Bank of Korea froze the key interest rate at a record low of 0.5%, saying the economic recovery has been patchy due to the resurgence of the coronavirus, while data showed that the unemployment rate eased to 3.9% in March, the lowest jobless rate in 7 months.
Dollar Index Trades Flat at Monthly Lows
The US Dollar Index was little changed at 91.627, holding near monthly lows in early trade Monday, amid strong economic data released last week and easing long term bond yields. US 10-year rates extended 5-week lows of 1.566% despite strong US inflation and recent employment data, while housing starts in the US rose to the highest level since 2006, pointing to a strong rebound in both consumer spending and the jobs market. Aside from the economic indicators, the Federal Reserve’s insistence that it will keep financial conditions as lenient as possible until the US economy heals from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic seems to be making it difficult for the greenback to attract new investors.
US Stock Futures Open Lower
US Futures opened lower in early Asian trade Monday, falling from record highs set in the previous week as earnings topped estimates and strong economic data boosted investor sentiment. This week traders will look for further confirmation of the private sector’s recovery from the pandemic as the earnings season gathers pace, with Coca-Cola, IBM and United Airlines among the names set to report on Monday. US 10-year rates extended 5-week lows of 1.566%, despite strong inflation and employment data last week. In addition, housing starts rose to the highest level since 2006 last week, pointing to a strong rebound in both consumer spending and the jobs market. The S&P and Dow advanced 1.38% and 1.18% last week respectively for their 4th straight week of gains, while the Nasdaq Composite lifted 1.4% for its 3rd positive week in a row.
Japan Imports Expand More than Estimated
Imports to Japan rose 5.7% yoy to a 14-month high of JPY 6.71 billion in March 2021, above market expectations of a 4.7% rise and after an 11.8% rise in February, amid a further recovery in domestic demand in the wake of the pandemic. Purchases of electrical machinery grew by 10.3%, led by semiconductors (6.6%), ICs (6.6%). Also, imports of others went up by 6.5%, boosted by scientific instruments (6.5). In addition, arrivals increased for chemicals (15.8%), due to medical products (27.3%) and organic chemicals (2.9%); machinery (15.5%), driven by computers (21.9); manufactured goods (10%), led by nonferrous metals (18.2%); raw materials (30%), due to ore of nonferrous (24.4%). In contrast, imports fell for mineral fuels (-11.6%), and transport equipment (-10.4%). Purchases went up from China (10%), Taiwan (8.7%), South Korea (11%), Thailand (15.4%), the US (6.5%), Germany (11.2%), and Netherland (87.3). By contrast, imports shrank from Australia (-8.5%), and Russia (-12.4%).
Japan Exports Rise the Most in More than 3 Years
Exports from Japan jumped 16.1% yoy to JPY 7.38 billion in March 2021, beating market consensus of an 11.6% growth and after a 4.5% fall in February. This was the steepest growth in outbound shipments since November 2017, amid signs that the economy continued to recover from last year’s COVID-19 slump. Sales of transport equipment rose 11.9%, boosted by motor vehicles (11.2%), and cars (10.5%). Exports of machinery grew 18.7%, led by power generating machines (7.9%). In addition, there were rises in sales of electrical machinery (12.7%), driven by semiconductors (9.8%); others (23.4%), driven by scientific instruments (17%); chemicals (18.5%), driven by plastic materials (23.7%); and manufactured goods (13%), due to iron and steel products (1.5%), and nonferrous metals (38.9%). Exports rose to most countries: China (37.2%), Taiwan (13.6%), Hong Kong (15%), South Korea (111.2%), Thailand (19.1%), the US (4.9%), Germany (11.3%), and Australia (28.7%).
Australian Dollar Moves Lower In Early Deals
The Australian Dollar fell 0.002 points or 0.25% to 0.77135, trading off 3-week highs touched in the previous week as strong US data provided an early bid for the Greenback. Local 10-year bond yields eased to 3-week lows of 1.692% while US 10-year rates extended 5-week lows of 1.569%. In the US, housing starts rose to the highest level since 2006, pointing to a strong rebound in both consumer spending and the jobs market, while data last week showed that some parts of the economy, like retail sales, have returned to or exceeded pre-pandemic levels, while jobless claims hit the lowest level in 13 months, but remained elevated, reflecting last month’s wave of business reopenings, increased vaccination rates and a fresh round of stimulus checks to households. Later in the week, Reserve Bank of Australia is set to release minutes from its latest policy meeting.
Japan Trade Surplus Beat Estimates
Japan's trade surplus soared to JPY 663.72 billion in March 2021 from JPY 7.49 billion in the same month a year earlier and easily exceeding market expectations of a JPY 490 billion surplus. This was the largest trade surplus since December last year, as exports rose more than imports. Exports jumped 16.1 percent year-on-year to a near three-year high of JPY 7.38 billion while imports grew by 5.7 percent to a 14-month high of JPY 6.71 billion. Considering the first three months of the year, the trade surplus was at JPY 554.22 billion, reversing from a deficit of JPY 201.01 billion in the same period of 2020.
New Zealand Dollar Trades Lower
The New Zealand Dollar lost 0.00125 points or 0.16% to 0.71306, moving lower in early deals on Monday as the Greenback retraced 3-week lows following strong data releases last week. Local 10-year bond yields eased to 3-week lows of 1.641% while US 10-year rates extended 5-week lows of 1.569% despite strong US inflation and recent employment data, while housing starts in the US rose to the highest level since 2006, pointing to a strong rebound in both consumer spending and the jobs market. In local data, the BusinessNZ Performance of Services Index increased to 52.4 in March of 2021 from an upwardly revised 49.7 in the previous month. It is the highest reading since July of 2020, while last week, the Performance of Manufacturing Index jumped to a record 63.6, the highest monthly result since the survey began in 2002.
New Zealand Services PMI at 8-Month High
The BusinessNZ Performance of Services Index in New Zealand increased to 52.4 in March of 2021 from an upwardly revised 49.7 in the previous month. It is the highest reading since July of 2020, mainly due to a steeper expansion in new orders (56.9 from 51.1 in February) and in activity (54.5 from 51.3). Meantime, there was a slight improvement in employment (51.8 from 51.1), while inventories (48.9 from 46.0) and supplier deliveries (43.5 from 41.0) both contracted at a softer pace.
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