Asian stocks rose on Friday after results from JPMorgan and Google kept shares on track for a sixth week of gains, while the euro fell to a one-month low on uncertainty over what non-standard policy action the European Central Bank will enact.
A jump in Chinese industrial output in March has added to a sense previously instilled by U.S. indicators that the pace of deterioration has slowed from the alarming rate of just a few months ago, supporting a month-long rally in global stocks.
Still, comments from policy makers about the economic outlook were cautious and hardly embraced the potential for a speedy recovery. Federal Reserve official Janet Yellen said in a speech there are tentative signs of stability but it was still impossible to know how deep the U.S. recession will ultimately be.
Higher-yielding currencies, like the Australian dollar and New Zealand dollar, have been rallying alongside global equity markets, but not to same extent, with currency dealers still concerned about the mixed bag of economic data around the world.
Corporate reports allowed negative developments to be overlooked, said Dariusz Kowalczyk, chief investment strategist with SJS Markets in Hong Kong, in a note to clients.
As a result, risk appetite continued to improve, depressing prices of sovereign developed debt and lifting prices of equities, corporate credit and most commodities.
The MSCI index of Asia Pacific stocks outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> edged up 0.3 percent on the day, set to close higher for a sixth consecutive week. That would be the longest weekly string of gains since the second half of 2007, when the bull market reached its apex.
Japan's Nikkei share average <.N225> climbed 1.7 percent, with investors selling defensive industries like pharmaceuticals and buying industries sensitive to business cycles like automakers.
Shares of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group <8306.T>, the country's largest bank, rose 1.6 percent, supported after first quarter profits at JPMorgan
Taiwan's tech-filled TAIEX index <.TWII> tumbled 4 percent, the biggest single-day decline in three months, after dealers closed out positions after the index failed to stay above 6,000. Taiwan, a weather vane for U.S. and Chinese demand, has been a regional leader in the equity rally.
WHAT THE FLOWS SHOW
Globally, investors have been slowly reducing their cash piles and putting the money to work in emerging markets and mostly U.S. corporate bonds.
Year-to-date emerging market equity funds have received $7.3 billion in new investment, while developed market stock funds have had net redemptions of $56.1 billion, Boston-based research firm EPFR Global said in a note.
At the heart of the sustained improvement in willingness to take risks for higher returns is a belief that after the crisis, big developing nations like China and Brazil will have a much more powerful place in the global economy.
China's determination to sustain 8 percent plus GDP growth remains the cornerstone of the latest surge in risk appetite, even though it was only able to eke out 6.1 percent growth in the first quarter, said Cameron Brandt, senior analyst with EPFR.
The flow data for April clearly favors China and a lot of the markets -- Brazil, Canada, Australia, and South Africa for example -- that will benefit from its demand for raw materials.
The euro came under pressure after European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet in a speech in Tokyo did not give more details on unorthodox policy steps that investors widely expect the central bank to take.
The euro fell to a one-month low of $1.3065 before recovering a bit to $1.3085, down around 0.7 percent on the day.
The euro would be sold off if the ECB takes quantitative easing policy. At the same time, the currency would weaken in the long-term even if the central bank does not adopt it as such decision could delay a recovery in the euro zone, said Tsutomu Soma, senior manager in the foreign securities department at Okasan Securities in Japan..
Activity in the Japanese government bond cash market was quiet ahead of the outcome of a meeting between the Ministry of Finance and primary dealers. Some in the market believe new debt issuance in term of maturities will be discussed.
Abundant new supply of government debt to finance economic rescue plans has also weighed on U.S. Treasuries.
The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note was roughly unchanged from late in New York, at 2.83 percent. Treasuries took a beating on Thursday as global stocks climbed.
U.S. crude for May delivery fell 0.3 percent to $49.82 a barrel after a 1.5 percent rise overnight. Economic readings in both China and the United States have been both less dire recently, though that has not necessarily translated into more demand for energy.