Monday 8th February 2016
NEWS TICKER: February 8th 2016: Thin and thinner news from Asia today as Chinese New Year celebrations take over from worries about falling stock markets. The focus today is all on Japan: the Bank of Japan released the notes backing its decision to introduce negative interest rates (see news story below). Japan's Nikkei Stock Average rose 1.1%, but is still down 12% from the beginning of the year and is still at 12.8 times this year’s earnings according to S&P Capital IQ. Thailand's SET was up 0.4%. India's Sensex is up 0.1% (essentially flat), while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 ended down 0.01%. Other markets in Asia were closed for the Lunar New Year holiday. The pace of the US Federal Reserve’s tightening on monetary policy still hangs heavy on the market, as last Friday’s jobs figures showed a 151,000 increase in jobs while insurance claims for joblessness stayed flat overall on the previous month. Contrast that with slower and still slowing growth in China, a nervous monetary policy from the PBOC, which is being steered rather than steering markets, still volatile crude oil prices (which can only get worse not better as inventories continue to rise), a collapsing market in Brazil, concerns about NPLs at Indian banks, and the threat of ever looser monetary policy in Europe and you can see why investors are running on empty. Crude oil prices remain sharply lower compared with several months ago, but the pace of falls might be easing. New York Mercantile Exchange, light, sweet crude futures for delivery in March traded at $30.86 a barrel, down three cents from the previous close. The words rock and hard place come to mind this week as the US Federal Reserve will have to steer a delicate monetary course. On the one hand an increase might help cool the economy (but that won’t help US stocks); but if it says that the reason it doesn’t raise rates is because of worries about the global outlook, it will shake investor confidence in the markets and trigger another round of sell offs. The other key trend has been the steadily appreciating US dollar. The US dollar has risen since Friday, factoring in perhaps the possibility of an additional rate rise. The dollar was at ¥ 117.28 in late Asia, up from ¥ 116.82 late Friday in New York. The euro was at $1.1139, down from $1.1160. We’ll find out midweek, as Federal Reserve chair Yellen will testify before Congress on the progress of monetary policy on Wednesday.

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