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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Asians stocks start off in a good mood, with upbeat US data

The Asian market looks likely to test February highs today, with the US manufacturing sector and gains in oil prices helped to ease the pressure and worries about a global slowdown. The US stocks had already gained much higher yesterday.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.6 percent in early trade, coming within striking distance of last month's peak touched on Feb. 23, its highest since early January.

According to Reuters report, Chicago-listed futures point to a 2.6 percent gains in Japan's Nikkei.

The market has basically been responding to the good news from the manufacturing data, which had been a major concern before this. This could probably revive expectations of a Fed rate hike.

The Institute for Supply Management's (ISM) index of factory activity, a closely-watched measure of the U.S. manufacturing sector, rose more than expected last month. It also edged up for two months in a row, appearing to have snapped its almost continuous decline since late 2014.

In the US market, the S&P 500 Index rose 2.39% to an 8-week high of 1,978.35.

U.S. interest rate futures are pricing in the Fed funds rate of 0.65 percent in January, effectively pricing in a full chance of a rate hike this year.

As the prospects of higher U.S. rates burnished the dollar's yield attraction, the dollar's index against a basket of six major currencies rose to a one-month high of 98.57.

In the oil market, things are starting to look a bit more positive with Brent crude futures up to a 8-week high of $37.25 per barrel. This was a jump of 37.5% from a 12-year low of $27.10 in January.

U.S. crude futures also hit a one-month high of $34.76 per barrel although gains were cut in post-settlement trade on Tuesday after data suggesting a huge build in U.S. crude stockpiles already at record high levels.

Politics may play a role in the US market with more eyes looking at the U.S Super Tuesday. The Republican is looking at Donald Trump to be the likely person for the Presidential race. His victory is far from clear but his isolation remarks have raised alarm among investors that his popularity could tilt Washington toward unilateralism when markets want more international cooperation to fight a slowing global growth.

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