Off The Wire
Yen strengthens, shares skid on U.S. recession fears
SYDNEY (Reuters) - The Japanese yen hovered near a six-week high on Monday while Asian shares are expected to start lower as risk assets fell out of favor on growing worries about an impending U.S. recession, sending global bond yields plunging.
In Asia, Nikkei futures pointed to a weak start for Japan. Australian shares fell 0.3 percent at the open while New Zealand’s benchmark index faltered 0.9 percent.
Investors also kept one eye on the details of a nearly two-year U.S. investigation which found no evidence of collusion between Donald Trump’s election team and Russia, in a major political victory for the U.S. President.
U.S. stock futures were marginally higher during early Asian hours.
On Friday, all three major U.S. stock indexes registered their biggest one-day percentage losses since Jan.3 with the Dow sliding 1.8 percent, the S&P 500 off 1.9 percent and the Nasdaq dropping 2.5 percent.
Concerns about the health of the world economy heightened last week after cautious remarks by the U.S. Federal Reserve sent 10-year treasury yields to the lowest since early 2018. Adding to the fears of a more widespread global downturn, manufacturing output data from Germany showed a contraction for the third straight month.
In response, 10-year treasury yields slipped below the three-month rate for the first time since 2007. Historically, an inverted yield curve - where long-term rates fall below short-term - has signaled an upcoming recession.
“We have re-run our preferred yield curve recession models, which now suggest a 30-35 percent chance of a U.S. recession occurring over the next 10-18 months,” said Tapas Strickland, markets strategist at National Australia Bank.
Typically a 40-60 percent probability sees a recession within the next 10-18 months, Strickland added, basing the analysis on previous recessions.
“The risk of a U.S. recession has risen and is flashing amber and this will keep markets pricing a high chance of the Fed cutting rates.”
Much of the concerns around global growth is stemming from Europe and China which are battling separate tariff wars with the United States. Political turmoil in Britain over the country’s exit from the European Union is also a major overhang for risk assets.
On Sunday, Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper said in a front page editorial British Prime Minister Theresa May must announce on Monday she will stand down as soon as her Brexit deal is approved.
The British pound was last flat at $1.3209 after three straight days of wild gyrations. The currency slipped 0.7 percent last week.
Politics was also in focus in the United States.
The long-awaited Mueller report into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to help Trump defeat his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, marked a major milestone of his presidency as he prepares for his 2020 re-election battle.
In currency markets, the Japanese yen - a perceived safe haven - held near its highest since Feb. 11. It was last off 0.1 percent at 110.04 per dollar.
The Australian dollar, a liquid proxy for risk play, was down for its third straight session of losses at $0.7072.
Editing by Shri Navaratnam