Asia shares camp near peaks, China’s Xi talks reform and stability

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Asian shares consolidated recent gains and currencies kept to tight ranges on Wednesday as the opening of China’s Communist Party conference produced more in the way of aspirational politics than concrete policies.

The twice-a-decade congress is expected to cement the power of President Xi Jinping, who kicked off the week-long event with a wide-ranging speech in which he said the market would be allowed to play a decisive role in allocating resources.

Yet he also said the role of the state in the economy had to be strengthened.

Investors are keen for clear direction on economic and financial market reform over the next five years, but history suggests these events can be light on detail.

China’s blue-chip CSI300 index .CSI300 added 0.5 percent in reaction, while Shanghai stocks .SSEC rose 0.3 percent.

“Market participants are paying much more attention to the party congress this time, as they are watching if any surprise reforms will emerge amid concerns over economic growth,” said Yan Kaiwen, analyst with China Fortune Securities.

On Tuesday, the United States again declined to name China as a currency manipulator although it remained critical of the Chinese government’s economic policies ahead of a planned visit to Beijing by President Donald Trump.

Recent economic data from the Asian giant has been generally upbeat, fuelling a tide of optimism about global growth that has benefited shares across the region.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS was steady near their highest since late 2007, while South Korea .KS11 was just off a record top.

Japan’s Nikkei .N225 added 0.2 percent and was trying hard to string together a 12th straight session of gains.

An opinion poll by Kyodo showed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s coalition was on track for a roughly two-thirds majority in Sunday’s general election there.

The bullish mood on equities was evident in the latest fund manager survey from BofA Merrill Lynch.

“For the first time in six years, Goldilocks trumps secular stagnation, with a record high 48 percent of investors surveyed expecting above-trend economic growth and below-trend inflation,” the survey found.

BEARISH ON BONDS

Investors were bearish on bonds with 82 percent of those surveyed expecting yields to rise in the next 12 months and a record 85 percent believing bonds were overvalued.

Yields on two-year U.S. Treasury paper US2YT=RR have hit their highest since November 2008 amid speculation President Trump could chose a more hawkish leader to replace Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen.

Interest rates futures <0#FF:> imply around a 90 percent probability of a Fed hike in December FEDWATCH.

The shift upward in yields lifted the dollar to a one-week top against a basket of currencies .DXY, and nudged it up 0.1 percent on the yen to 112.29 JPY=.

The euro was holding at $1.1765 EUR=, still some way above the recent low and major chart support at $1.1667.

Dealers were wary ahead of speeches by several policymakers from the European Central Bank due later on Wednesday, which includes President Mario Draghi.

The biggest mover had been Mexico’s peso MXN= which boasted its biggest rise in over four months after trade ministers from the United States, Canada and Mexico extended the deadline on a contentious round of talks.

On Wall Street, the Dow .DJI had ended Tuesday up a slim 0.18 percent having briefly broken above the 23,000-point mark for the first time on Tuesday, while the S&P 500 .SPX gained 0.07 percent and the Nasdaq .IXIC dipped 0.01 percent.

Shares in IBM (IBM.N) jumped nearly 5 percent after hours as a shift to newer businesses such as cloud and security services helped it beat Wall Street’s quarterly revenue estimates.

In commodity markets, talk of higher U.S. interest rates kept gold pinned down at XAU= $1,284.81 an ounce.

Oil prices got a boost from a drop in U.S. crude inventories and concerns that tensions in the Middle East could disrupt supplies. Brent crude futures LCOc1 firmed 34 cents to $58.22 per barrel, while U.S. crude CLc1 gained 18 cents to $52.06.

Editing by Sam Holmes and Richard Borsuk