Asian stocks rally as Yellen backs Fed support for economy

Last Updated: Thu, Nov 14, 2013 07:29 hrs

Japanese stocks led a broad rally in Asia on Thursday, spurred by Federal Reserve Vice Chair Janet Yellen's comments which suggested global asset markets could count on the Fed's generous stimulus for some time.

Yellen, in remarks released ahead of her closely-watched Senate confirmation hearing from 1500 GMT to succeed Fed chief Ben Bernanke, said the Fed has "more work to do" to help the economy.

European shares look set to carry the momentum seen in Asia, with France's CAC seen up as much as 0.8 percent and Germany's DAX and Britain's FTSE 0.7 percent.

"Yellen said the jobless rate is too high, and inflation is too low. Nowhere in her comments one can find the context for tapering," said Norihiro Fujito, senior investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.

Global markets have been buffeted since May when the Fed first suggested that the start of stimulus tapering wasn't far off. Since then a run of mixed U.S. data has had markets constantly second-guessing the central bank's intentions, often triggering sharp moves in asset prices.

U.S. stock futures hit a record high following Yellen's comments, which came after regular U.S. trading hours on Wednesday that also saw major indexes scaling all-time highs.

Japan's Nikkei jumped 2.1 percent to hit a six-month high, also drawing support from data showing Japan's economic growth in the third quarter beat market expectations.

Growth of 0.5 percent in the July-September quarter topped market expectations of 0.4 percent, marking the fourth successive quarter of expansion - the best run for the world's third-largest economy in three years.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan gained 1.0 percent, moving way from a six-week low hit on Wednesday.

Emerging market currencies, including those that took a hammering on Wednesday on concerns about imminent tapering of the Fed's stimulus, found some relief.

The Indonesian rupiah gained 0.6 percent to 11,535 per dollar, recovering from 4 1/2-year low set on Wednesday.

The euro hit one-week high against the dollar, having erased most of the losses it had suffered after the European Central Bank's surprise rate cut a week ago.

The euro last held at $1.3476, after having risen to a high of $1.3499 earlier.

The dollar gained 0.4 percent against the yen to 99.60 yen near a two-month peak of 99.80 yen as rising risk appetite dented the safe-haven yen and erased the greenback's initial losses.

U.S. bond prices gained, pushing the 10-year notes yield below 2.70 percent at one point. It last stood at 2.72 percent , flat from late U.S. levels but off an eight-week high of 2.79 percent.

Bond prices could rise further if Yellen hints at keeping low rates for longer.

Speculation is rife that Yellen may indicate she would like to see the jobless rate fall to six percent or below before raising rates. The Fed's current threshold for the jobless rate is 6.5 percent.

"The bond market will be looking at her comments on forward guidance. Bond yields, especially at the short end, will likely be crushed," Makoto Noji, senior strategist at SMBC Nikko Securities said.

Prospects of the Fed staying dovish for a longer period supported commodity and energy prices. Spot gold rose 0.6 percent to $1,287 per ounce while silver rose 1.3 percent to $20.87.

Copper also gained 0.5 percent though the rebound came after it had tumbled to a three-month low in heavy volume in the previous day -- in a possible sign of fragile global growth.

Oil futures were weighed by data suggesting a rise in U.S. inventories last week, but stayed above recent lows on concerns over Libyan supply outages as strikes and protests disrupted the country's oil exports.

U.S. crude futures recovered to trade at $93.80 per barrel, up slightly on the day but still not far from 4 1/2-month low of $92.86 set on Tuesday.

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