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Asian equities make cautious gains

Asian equities have made cautious gains in early trade on Wednesday following mixed US corporate earnings while oil prices looked set for more wild swings as storage concerns capped optimism about easing coronavirus lockdowns.

Technology stocks drove all three major US stock indexes into the red, though they remained within 20 per cent of their February all-time highs.

“There was a big sector rotation as money left high value, growth sectors in tech like Amazon and went to value and cyclical sectors like energy, industrial, financials,” said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment strategist at Inverness Counsel in New York.

Alphabet Inc’s earnings beat analysts’ estimates for quarterly revenue as its Google unit posted double-digit advertising growth despite the coronavirus-induced slowdown. While users were searching more, they were looking up less commercial topics and advertisers were cutting spending.

In early Asian trade, Japan’s Nikkei index slipped 0.06 per cent. Australia was up 0.3 per cent and South Korea climbed 0.2 per cent. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.2 per cent at 467.95.

Markets were looking for any forward guidance from the US Federal Reserve, which is due to issue a policy statement at the close of its two-day meeting on Wednesday. The European Central Bank meets on Thursday.

Analysts said it was unlikely the Fed would make further major policy moves, given the scope and depth of its efforts to counter the economic damage caused by the coronavirus.

Reassuring UBS earnings lifted European banks nearly 5 per cent, while Wall Street digested upbt numbers from industrial conglomerate 3M Co, a maker of N95 respirator masks, and drugmaker Pfizer Inc.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.13 per cent, the S&P 500 lost 0.52 per cent and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 1.4 per cent. The greenback gave back some earlier losses as stocks came off their highs on concerns the coronavirus could spread further than previously thought if businesses reopened prematurely.

The dollar index against a basket of currencies fell 0.089 per cent. The euro slipped 0.11 per cent to $US1.0816 ($A1.6647) while the euro index eased after Fitch cut Italy’s credit rating to BBB-, just one notch above ‘junk’ status.

The Japanese yen strengthened 0.35 per cent versus the greenback at 106.87 per dollar, while sterling was last trading at $US1.242 ($A1.912), down 0.06 per cent on the day.

The benchmark 10-year US Treasury rose 12/32 in price to yield 0.6161 per cent, from 0.654 per cent late on Monday.

Oil prices ended mixed with Brent up on positive sentiment about the easing of lockdowns, while US crude traders remained cautious as storage capacity were filling up fast.

Crude prices rose in post-settlement trading after data showed a slightly smaller-than-expected buildup in stockpiles.

US crude recently rose 2.66 per cent to $US13.12 ($A20.19) per barrel, and Brent was at $US20.74 ($A31.92), up 3.75 per cent on the day.

Originally published as Asian equities make cautious gains

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