Stocks bask in tech euphoria, Nvidia boom

By Thomson Reuters Feb 22, 2024 | 8:46 PM

By Stella Qiu

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Asia stocks rose on Friday and put global markets on course for a week of heady gains as AI darling Nvidia’s stunning results sparked a wave of record highs from Asia to Europe and the U.S., while the yen nursed losses on a range of currencies.

Nvidia surged 15%, adding a record $250 billion in market value on Thursday. The Santa Clara, California-based company’s results supercharged a global AI-led rally in technology stocks, propelling the S&P 500, the Dow Jones Industrials, Europe’s STOXX 600 and Japan’s Nikkei share average to record highs.

Tokyo is closed for a holiday on Friday, with the Nikkei futures trading up about 300 points.

“The Nvidia effect has ripped through global equity markets and given fresh wind to markets that were looking ominously poised for a 3-5% drawdown,” said Chris Weston, head of research at Pepperstone in Melbourne.

“Consider that Nvidia holds its highly anticipated GTC (technology) conference on 18 March – where they are likely to update the market on new products and innovations – so pullbacks in the stock should be shallow, and we could see buyers push price higher into that event,” he said.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.6%, bringing the weekly gains to 1.8%.

In a promising sign that Beijing’s efforts to steady a market rout might be working, China’s bluechips rose 0.4% on Friday and are set for a weekly gain of 4.0%. It has rebounded about 10% since plumbing five-year lows two weeks ago.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index climbed 0.8%.

“The markets have been remarkably resilient given central banks have pushed back against early rate cuts… Along with continued mostly solid economic activity, particularly in the U.S., it’s quite possible that any pause in markets is just another walk to the upside,” said Shane Oliver, chief economist at AMP.

“I think the markets are sort of coming to the view well maybe we’ll get the rate cuts. They may not be as much as we thought, and they might be later, but if the economic activity is still good then that’s not a problem.”

A Reuters poll showed that the recent rally in global stocks has a little further to go but they were divided on whether there will be a correction in the next three months.

The influential Fed Governor Christopher Waller on Thursday said policymakers should wait at least another couple more months to see if inflation is indeed heading back to target, signalling no rush to cut rates.

Rates markets continued to pare back U.S. policy easing expectations on the back of strong U.S. economic data. Jobless claims fell, home sales rose to a five-month high although the expansion in business activity slipped a little.

The first Fed cut is now fully priced for July, and just 80 basis points of easing is in this year’s curve.

The cash Treasuries market is closed on Friday, but overnight, the ten-year Treasury yield rose to a three-month high of 4.3540% before paring some of the gains.

In Europe, traders also scaled back their bets on European Central Bank rate cuts to less than 100 bps this year after latest ECB minutes showed policymakers were wary of easing monetary policy too early.

In the foreign exchange market, the yen was little changed at 150.41 per dollar on Friday, above the critical 150 level that could draw possible Japanese intervention to slow the currency’s declines.

However, the yen has taken a beating against a broad range of currencies as investors bet the Bank of Japan will still keep monetary policy accommodative even after ending negative interest rates.

The Australian and kiwi dollars hit 9-year highs on the yen overnight and were last fetching 98.71 and 93.14 yen. The euro hovered at 162.82 yen, nearing a 15-year high.

Oil prices fell after climbing on supply fears as hostilities in the Red Sea showed no signs of abating. A large build in U.S. crude inventories also weighed. [O/R]

Brent eased 0.4% to $83.37, while U.S. crude slipped 0.5% to $78.24 per barrel.

The spot gold price was flat at $2,026.07.

(Reporting by Stella Qiu; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)