Asian stocks posted solid gains for a second consecutive day on Friday as market players scooped up bargains while the euro pushed higher, though the currency's gains may be limited for now as fears of a Greek default weighed on sentiment.
Noting the chunky gains in Asian stocks, European stock index futures pointed to early gains while the S&P e-mini futures rose 0.1 percent, suggesting a higher start on Wall Street later in the day. <.N>
While the euro enjoyed a brief respite versus the U.S. dollar due to thinning yield differentials, it plumbed to a record low against the Swiss franc in a sign that traders remain focused on the rapidly escalating situation in the euro zone.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the head of euro zone finance ministers rattled markets when he said the International Monetary Fund could withhold the next slice of aid to Greece due next month, raising the specter of default, though his spokesman later softened some of his comments.
While markets have been under pressure in recent weeks due to a steady stream of bad news from the euro zone, Asian stocks and bonds have held up fairly well as recent data prints and positioning comforted investors on the region's growth outlook.
Korea <.KS11> was among the top gainers as foreign investors trooped back, snapping a long selling streak. Solid current account surplus numbers in April too played its part.
Stocks outside Japan were up 0.7 percent on Friday even though the index is set for a fifth consecutive week of losses -- its longest string of losses since October 2008.
Downside risks for large caps are capped by its increasingly attractive valuations, said Wang Aochao, an analyst with UOB Kay Hian in Shanghai. So with small caps looking overvalued, it looks like investors will continue to switch out of them and into large caps in the near term.
Japanese shares were among the exceptions to the gainers, with the benchmark Nikkei average <.N225> down 0.42 percent and the Topix index <.TOPX> down 0.3 percent on the day.
While concerns of a Greek restructuring kept investors cautious about adding big positions in stocks, they had no such qualms toward fixed-income assets as Asian policymakers stepped up their battle to fight inflation by tightening policy.
Latest data from Thomson Reuters Lipper showed net inflows of $94 million into high yield funds and a $1 billion inflow into corporate investment grade funds in the week of May 25.
DESPERATELY SEEKING CONFIDENCE
In currency markets, the euro turned higher after its drop this week stalled right near its 100-day moving average and also the bottom of the cloud on daily Ichimoku charts, a form of Japanese technical analysis popular among market players.
Still, it is expected to stay within recent established trading ranges until confidence is restored on the Greek debt crisis and the market refocuses on the outlook for euro zone interest rates, which would be supportive for the single currency, Brown Brothers Harriman strategists said in a note.
For now though, the double whammy of weak U.S. economic data and falling U.S. Treasury yields offered support to the euro.
In another sign that the U.S. economy has hit a soft patch, jobless claims for last week unexpectedly rose while annual GDP growth came in lower than analysts had expected.
The weak data took the wind out of commodity markets, particularly oil, which dropped more than 1 percent overnight, but recovered to hold above the $100 per barrel line.
In bond markets, U.S. Treasuries rallied and benchmark yields fell to new six-month lows with ten-year note yields breaking below their 200-day moving average. They were last at 3.06 percent, their lowest level since early December.
Other safe-haven assets like gold and silver received a boost from the Greece situation. Silver recovered after falling in the previous session while gold inched higher.