Asian equity markets have kicked 2018 off with healthy gains

Hong Kong (AFP) - 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.

In early trade Hong Kong and Shanghai were each up 0.4 percent, Sydney added 0.2 percent and Singapore put on 0.3 percent.

Seoul rose 0.3 percent, Wellington was 0.4 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.

- ‘Punchbowl’ -

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 further, 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 edged up as traders keep an eye on events in Iran, where protesters have taken to the streets over economic grievances, fuelling 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 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.

- Key figures around 0240 GMT -

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.4 percent at 30,638.94

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.4 percent at 3,360.02

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: Closed for a holiday

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.2062 from $1.2055 at 2145 GMT

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3599 from $1.3594

Dollar/yen: UP at 112.30 yen from 112.28 yen

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP six cents at $60.43 per barrel

Oil - Brent North Sea: UP three cents at $66.60

New York - DOW: UP 0.4 percent at 24,824.01 (close)

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.5 percent at 7,648.10 (close)