Asian Shares Hit Four-Month High On China Data

On Tuesday, Asian shares hit a high of four months after China’s official PMI survey showing the manufacturing sector managed to continue expanding in March and dovish comments from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen.

Asian Shares Hit Four-Month High On China Data

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS rose by up to 0.4 percent and reached its highest level since early December. It is widely believed that European shares will gain, with both Britain’s FTSE .FTSE and France’s CAC .FCHI seen rising 0.3 percent. The Nikkei failed to match other indexes and fell 0.2 percent as the Bank of Japan’s tankan survey revealed that Japanese companies are cautious on the economic outlook as a sales tax hike of three percentage points took effect on Tuesday.

Yellen reinforced the need for an “extraordinary” commitment for supporting the U.S. economy. In her first public speech since becoming Fed chair two months ago, the Fed chair remarked here remains “considerable” slack in the economy and job market.

“It seems like she expressed her own dovish ideas. There’s nothing really new and the outlook of the Fed’s policy has not changed that much but the markets like her remarks,” Makoto Noji, senior strategist at SMBC Nikko Securities.

Gold hit a seven-week low of $1,278.34 per ounce, yen slipped to a three-week low against the dollar of 103.44 yen, and the euro bounced back against the U.S. dollar to fetch $1.3774.

JPMorgan Says Repos Cut To Lowest by US Money Funds

According to a report released by J.P. Morgan Securities, U.S. prime money market funds cut their holdings of repurchase agreements with banks and Wall Street dealers in February to the lowest in over three years.

JPMorgan Says Repos Cut To Lowest by US Money Funds

Repurchase agreements are loan money funds of short term made to banks and dealers secured by Treasuries and other securities while banks and dealers use the cash for financing trades and daily operations with these general collateral (GC) repos. J.P. Morgan analysts said prime money funds while reducing their exposure to private repos raised their stakes in the Federal Reserve’s reverse repurchase agreements by $20 billion last month to $100 billion.

“With the elevated usage of the Fed (reverse repos), we note that prime (money fund) holdings of dealer GC repo dropped to the lowest amount we have on record, dipping below the low reached in April 2011 due to the newly effective FDIC insurance fee assessment rate,” J.P. Morgan analysts wrote in the report.

J.P. Morgan said bank and dealer repos represented 10.3 percent of the prime money funds’ total assets, which was a hair above the 10.2 percent in April 2011. According to J.P. Morgan, prime money funds had about $1.098 trillion in assets at the end of February, down $37 billion from January.

Google+ Contacts Linked By Google To Gmail

A new feature in Gmail by Google could result in some users receiving messages from people with whom they have not shared their email addresses. This risk has already raised concerns among some privacy advocates.

The change broadens the list of contacts available to users of Gmail so that it includes both the email addresses of their existing contacts and the names of people on the Google+ social network. With this feature, users can now send an email directly to friends, and strangers, who use Google+.

This new feature will make it easier for people who use both services to communicate with their friends, said Google. “Have you ever started typing an email to someone only to realize halfway through the draft that you haven’t actually exchanged email addresses?” the company said in a blog post announcing the feature. “You’re in luck, because now it’s easier for people using Gmail and Google+ to connect over email.” The company added this new feature would not expose the email addresses of any Google+ users to strangers. Google is planning to send an email to all Google+ users during the next two days alerting them to the change and explaining how to change their settings, a Google spokeswoman said.

The new feature was called “troubling” by Marc Rotenberg, the executive director of non-profit Electronic Privacy Information Center. “There is a strong echo of the Google Buzz snafu,” he said while referring to a social networking service that Google launched in 2010.

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Asian Shares Tumble On China Services PMI

On January 6, Asian shares fell to a low of three weeks after growth in the services sector of China slowed sharply last month to raise concerns about the pace of recovery in the world’s second-largest economy while gold climbed.

Asian Shares Tumble On China Services PMI

The United States dollar hovered near a high of four weeks and was well supported by an upbeat outlook for the U.S. economy from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke that supported expectations of faster stimulus reduction by the central bank of the country.

“With the Fed having set the tapering process in motion, it would likely take a fairly significant miss to derail tapering expectations and push yields significantly lower from their year-end levels,” analysts at BNP Paribas wrote in a note.

“Against this backdrop, the dollar is likely to remain generally well-supported this week, particularly versus the lower-yielding G10 currencies,” they added.

According to financial bookmakers, British, French, and German shares are expected to open steady to modestly softer. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS shed 0.8 percent to reach a low of three weeks. China’s CSI300 index .CSI300 sagged 2.3 percent to hit a low of five months after the HSBC/Markit services sector Purchasing Managers’ Index fell to 50.9 in December from 52.5 in the previous month, with new business expansion the slowest in six months.

“The focal point of the Asian markets is more on Chinese growth and on Chinese political situation and how it’s going to pan out this year, rather than worrying about how tapering will affect Asia specifically,” said Guy Stear, Asian credit and equity strategist at Societe Generale in Hong Kong, referring to the manufacturing PMI released recently.

Exceptionally Healthy Year For Real Estate In 2014

Re/Max, a leading real estate group, has revealed that Canada can expect an “exceptionally healthy” housing market in 2014. The real estate group remarked this would be primarily because of overall economy improvements that helped in producing a surge in the latter half of 2013.

It expected that home sales nationally are expected to climb two per cent to 475,000 units next year after a three per cent increase to well over 453,000 projected for 2013 when all the numbers are in. According to a survey of the group’s independent brokers and affiliates, the value of an average Canadian home is forecast to escalate three per cent to $390,000 in 2014 after rising four per cent to $380,000 in 2013.

“Canadian housing markets are on solid ground after a somewhat harrowing first and second quarter of 2013,” said Gurinder Sandhu, executive vice-president and regional director, RE/MAX Ontario-Atlantic Canada.

Quebec and Atlantic Canada have been the exceptions to the rosy performance in 2013 but ReMax said both of them should improve in 2014.  “Both regions should rebound in the new year, led by Halifax-Dartmouth (five per cent), Moncton (three per cent), Greater Montreal (two per cent) and Quebec City (two per cent).”

Re/Max said one of the most pressing factor is build out that contribute to rising housing prices on a national basis.

“Nowhere is that more obvious than in Vancouver, where the mountains and the ocean have prevented further growth, and the Greater Toronto Area, where the greenbelt has stymied future development.”

“As such, the availability of low-rise homes relative to the population is expected to contract, placing further pressure on prices,” it said.

“We’re definitely seeing a greater commitment to higher density at a municipal level,” said Elton Ash, regional executive vice-president, RE/MAX of Western Canada.

Redrawing Markers For Rate Hike Unlikely

Policymakers of the Federal Reserve have cooled to the thought of explicitly raising the bar on future interest rate hikes.

The Fed remains intent to assure investors that easy monetary policy is here for the long haul. In the view of Federal Reserve, households and businesses require low borrowing costs to get spending and investment back on a self-sustaining path. This is the reason why the central bank took the unprecedented step of pledging to keep overnight interest rates near zero until unemployment falls to at least 6.5 percent, unless inflation threatens to rise above 2.5 percent.

Redrawing Markers For Rate Hike Unlikely

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke hinted the central bank could soon reduce its bond purchases. Recently, two highly publicized Fed research papers suggested that lowering the unemployment rate threshold could give the economy additional thrust.

“I think that the message that 6.5 (percent) is a threshold not a trigger and that rates will remain low even after that level is breached has sunk into market participants, so there is little benefit to changing the threshold,” said Tim Duy, an economics professor at the University of Oregon.

Even Evans, the original architect of threshold-based policy, said, “I would guess that that’s a very aggressive action and perhaps only a more intermediate step would be called for.”

Interest Rate Back To Double Digits In Brazil

Brazil has raised interest rates for the sixth straight time to end a short-lived era of single-digit borrowing costs that failed to reignite the largest economy of Latin America.

The monetary policy committee, known as Copom, of Brazilian central bank raised its Selic to 10 percent from 9.50 percent — its highest level since March of 2012. “With the changes in the statement, the bank signals it has become more data dependent to decide between a 25 and a 50-basis-point hike in the next meeting,” said Mauricio Molan, chief economist with Santander Brasil.

“Continuing the adjustment of the benchmark interest rate, begun at the April 2013 meeting, Copom decided unanimously to raise the Selic rate to 10 percent per annum, without bias,” the bank said in a statement.

Brazil is one of the few countries in the world still boosting borrowing costs and has the highest interest rates among major economies. Other emerging market nations like Poland and Mexico are slashing borrowing costs to cope with an international economic slowdown.

The return of interest rate back to double digits is a political setback for President Dilma Rousseff, who made cheaper credit a key economic goal of her government.

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US-EU Trade Negotiations Postponed

The Obama administration has remarked the United States is postponing negotiations for a landmark free trade deal with the European Union due to a partial shutdown of the U.S. government.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman called European Union Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht to communicate that officials of the country could not travel to Brussels next week for talks because of the shutdown, Froman’s office USTR said in a statement. In a statement, De Gucht said the cancellation of the meetings “in no way distracts us from our overall aim of achieving an ambitious trade and investment deal.”

“USTR will work with the (European) Commission to craft an alternative work plan that can begin once the U.S. government shutdown ends,” the agency said.

The European Union and Washington were expected to hold a second round of negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that would be the biggest free trade deal of the world. The United States and the EU already are the largest trade and investment partners of the world but both are presently struggling with high unemployment. The United States and the EU want to create new jobs on both sides of the Atlantic by striking a deal for eliminating remaining tariffs on their goods and to reduce regulatory barriers to trade.