TOKYO (Reuters) – Asian shares were little changed on Friday ahead of a raft of Chinese economic data, while world stocks on the whole flew at a record level, fuelled by strong U.S. economic data that may herald a solid recovery ahead.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan were little changed while Japan’s Nikkei ticked up 0.2%.
China will release a series of economic data later in the day, including its first-quarter GDP.
MSCI’s broadest gauge of world stocks stood flat after 0.89 percent gains the previous day to a record high.
“U.S. economic data released yesterday was all strong, confirming the U.S. economy is firmly on a recovery track,” said Norihiro Fujito, chief investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ (NYSE:MUFG) Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) Securities.
Retail sales rebounded 9.8% in March, the largest increase since May 2020, in a gain that pushed the level of sales 17.1% above its pre-pandemic level to a record high.
The brightening economic prospects were underscored by other data, including first-time claims for unemployment benefits tumbling last week to the lowest level since March 2020.
Despite strong data, U.S. bond yields dropped, in part driven by Japanese buying, as they have began a new financial year this month.
The 10-year U.S. Treasuries yield dropped to 1.529%, a five-week low, on Thursday and last stood at 1.566%, off its 14-month high of 1.776% set at the end of March.
“The market has already fully priced in an U.S. economic recovery in the near term. And if the Federal Reserve will keep interest rates on hold for the next two to three years, no doubt the carry of U.S. bonds would be very attractive compared with Japanese or euro zone bonds,” said Chotaro Morita, chief fixed income strategist at SMBC Nikko Securities.
The fall in long-term bond yields benefited stocks, and particularly tech shares, given the idea that their historically expensive valuations can be justified because investors would have no choice but to buy shares to make up for low returns from bonds.
In the currency market, lower U.S. yields were a drag on the U.S. dollar.
The euro stood at $1.1965, having hit a six-week high of $1.19935 overnight while the U.S. currency slipped to a three-week low of 108.61 yen.
Oil prices held firm after hitting a four-week highs on Thursday following positive U.S. economic data and higher demand forecasts from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and OPEC.