Asian stocks drop, yen advances before Trump speech to Congress

Tokyo stocks fell yesterday as a stronger yen discouraged investors who are already cautious ahead of US President Donald Trump's policy speech to Congress.

The Nikkei Stock Average NIK, +0.64% was up 0.6% in early trading, shrugging off poor economic data. Pending home sales, meanwhile dropped 2.8 percent in January to their lowest level in a year.

Overnight in the US, a rally in energy, financial and biotechnology shares lifted the major indexes.

In the cash market, the S&P 500 Index was trading about 0.10% higher, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was even weaker, coming in just 0.08% better, while the NASDAQ Composite outperformed with a 0.27% gain.

Rebounding from sharp losses in the previous session, Asian stock markets were back in the black in anticipation of Trump's speech to Congress on Tuesday, following a budget proposal from the White House on Monday that would boost military spending by around $20 billion. Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at CFD and FX provider AxiTrader, said in a note. "There will be a few things that the market will hunt for in his address today".

The new USA president hinted he would make a "big" announcement on infrastructure policy, raising hopes he will deliver on a key campaign promise.

Global markets and the dollar have surged since Trump's election win in November on expectations his planned measures will fire the USA economy and fuel inflation, forcing the Federal Reserve to lift interest rates.

The dollar held steady after hawkish comments from Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan bolstered U.S. Treasury yields. The euro was up 0.1 percent on the day at $1.0599.

Britain's FTSE 100 is likely to add around 29 points at the start of trading, according to financial bookmakers IG, with the benchmark getting a boost from a noticeably weaker pound, which traded 0.33% lower against the US dollar at 1.2420 overnight in Asia.

Energy names in Australia traded higher - Santos shares were up 1.73 percent, Oil Search gained 0.5 percent and Woodside Petroleum was up 0.22 percent.

The greenback's improvement from Monday's levels around 112 yen provided support to Japan's exporters in the morning but the positive energy for the dollar seeped away through the day and the Nikkei ended only marginally higher, having been up nearly one percent at one point.

Copper edged up and oil futures ticked up for a second day on reports of high compliance to the OPEC production cut agreement, while gold traded with negative bias.

  • Carolyn Briggs