Asian shares waver as US tax bill passes Senate

Business Wednesday 20/December/2017 12:38 PM
By: Times News Service
Asian shares waver as US tax bill passes Senate

Tokyo: Asian shares bobbed lower in a choppy session on Wednesday, hobbled by Wall Street's losses as the long-awaited US tax reform bill wound its way through Congress, while higher Treasury yields underpinned the dollar.
The Republican-led US Senate approved the sweeping $1.5-trillion tax bill in the small hours of Wednesday morning. A re-vote by the House of Representatives was scheduled for later in the day, with approval expected, and the bill will then go to President Donald Trump to sign into law.
Asian market reaction to the passage was muted, with S&P e-mini futures edging slightly higher, up 0.2 percent.
European stock futures were up 0.1 per cent, portending a slightly firmer opening for the region, with DAX futures up 0.2 per cent, CAC futures up 0.1 per cent and FTSE futures 0.1 per cent lower.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down slightly in afternoon trade, while Japan's Nikkei stock index finished up 0.1 per cent.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 0.15 per cent on Tuesday, the S&P 500 lost 0.32 per cent, and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.44 per cent.
"I think people are getting more concerned about the tax bill," said Harumi Taguchi, principal economist at IHS Markit in Tokyo. "Even if it's passed, it will take some time to know whether or not it will have an impact on the economy."
The bill slashes the corporate income tax rate to 21 per cent from 35 per cent. That would boost overall earnings for S&P 500 companies by 9.1 per cent, according to UBS equity strategists, though some investors said those expectations are already reflected in recent stock market gains to record highs.
Congress is also struggling to pass a temporary spending bill by midnight on Friday to fund the government and avert a partial shutdown.
"We need to confirm the passage of the tax bill, and the avoidance of a shutdown by Friday, and these two things are necessary before the dollar can move higher, as the market waits for these developments," said Masafumi Yamamoto, chief currency strategist for Mizuho Securities in Tokyo.
Higher US Treasury yields bolstered the greenback on Tuesday, with the benchmark 10-year yield notching a seven-week high of 2.472 per cent. It last stood at 2.453 per cent in Asian trading, compared with its US close on Tuesday of 2.463 per cent.
The dollar edged up 0.1 per cent to 113.01 yen, while the euro was steady at $1.1835.
The European currency got a lift from higher eurozone rates, gaining 0.5 per cent on Tuesday, when central bank governors of Estonia, Slovakia and Germany all discussed the need to shift the debate from bond purchases to other tools such as interest rates.
"That's re-igniting the debate about ECB tightening, so despite the outlook for the US tax bill passage, euro-dollar is strong right now," Mizuho's Yamamoto said.
Against a basket of six rival currencies, the dollar was slightly higher on the day at 93.481.
Bitcoin was down 7.1 per cent on the Bitstamp exchange at $16,450, after earlier losing almost one-fifth of its value from a peak hit just three days ago.
US crude oil futures extended gains, helped by a North Sea pipeline outage, Opec-led supply cuts and expectations that US crude inventories had fallen for a fifth week.
US crude was up 0.3 per cent, or 15 cents, at $57.71 a barrel, after settling up 0.5 per cent on Tuesday. Brent crude was 0.2 per cent higher, adding 12 cents to $63.92 after gaining 0.6 per cent overnight.