AP and Reuters

Asia stocks gain; US futures slip after Netflix, Tesla earnings


A man is reflected on an electric stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan April 18, 2023. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Asian stocks rose and sterling stumbled on Thursday as cooling UK inflation lifted risk appetite ahead of central bank meetings next week, while disappointing earnings results from Netflix and Tesla pushed U.S. futures lower.

Meanwhile, China’s yuan shot up after authorities tweaked cross-border financing rules and major state-owned banks were seen selling dollars in moves analysts said were designed to shore up the currency.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan (.MIAPJ0000PUS) was 0.53% higher, on course to snap its three day losing streak. Japan’s Nikkei (.N225) slid 0.93%.

China stocks have been under pressure in recent weeks as soft economic data weighed on sentiment, with investors waiting for meaningful stimulus to jump start the country’s stuttering post-pandemic recovery.

On Thursday, the Shanghai Composite Index (.SSEC) was 0.1% higher, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index (.HSI) gained 0.3%.

China on Wednesday pledged to make the private economy “bigger, better and stronger” with a series of policy measures designed to help private business.

Britain’s high rate of inflation fell more than expected in June to its slowest in over a year at 7.9%, data showed on Wednesday, with markets dialling back expectations of further aggressive rate hikes from the Bank of England.

Sterling last fetched $1.2959, up 0.17% on the day, having tumbled 0.7% overnight.

The Bank of England is due to meet in the first week of August but before that central bank meetings in Japan, Europe and the United States will likely grab investors’ attention.

Traders and analysts expect the European Central Bank to raise its benchmark rate by 25 basis points but what comes after that has been up for debate in the wake of recent dovish tone taken by the central bank’s policymakers.

The Bank of Japan Governor Kazuo Ueda said this week that there was still some distance to sustainably and stably achieving the central bank’s 2% inflation target, dousing speculation of a hawkish policy shift next week.

Markets seem a lot more certain of the Federal Reserve’s next steps, with traders expecting a 25 basis point hike but no more after that.

“As investors grow more confident that peak inflation is definitively behind us, so do expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve’s current rate hiking cycle will finally be over” after next week’s meeting, said Nuveen’s Chief Investment Officer Saira Malik.

“Running bulls could be tripped up by cracks in the economy and corporate earnings,” Malik cautioned.

Overnight, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 index rose modestly, with the blue-chip Dow registering its eighth straight day of gains.

But futures fell in Asian trade, with E-mini futures for the S&P 500 0.15% lower and Nasdaq futures down 0.44%after earnings from streaming giant Netflix and EV maker Tesla.

Netflix (NFLX.O) disappointed Wall Street on Wednesday with second-quarter revenue that fell short of analyst estimates, while Tesla (TSLA.O) reported quarterly automotive gross margin in line with Wall Street estimates, though it was a far cry from a year earlier.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk signalled that he would cut prices again on electric vehicles even as his all-out price war on automaker rivals squeezes the company’s own margins.

Investors will watch out for earnings results from Taiwanese chipmaker TSMC (2330.TW) later in the day.

In the currency market, the onshore yuan jumped after the central bank relaxed a cross-border financing rule, making it easier for domestic firms to raise funds from overseas markets and easing depreciation pressure on the yuan currency.

The Australian dollar rose 0.86% to $0.683 after strong domestic jobs data.

The Japanese yen strengthened 0.32% to 139.23 per dollar, while the dollar index , which measures U.S. currency against six rivals, eased 0.209%.

In commodities, Chicago wheat futures rose 1.4% to hit a three-week high on growing expectations that an attack on Ukrainian ports after Russia’s withdrawal from a Black Sea export deal would have a longer-term impact on global supply.

U.S. crude fell 0.11% to $75.27 per barrel and Brent was at $79.62, up 0.2% on the day.