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Britain's tax backdown bounces stocks and sterling

Britain's tax backdown bounces stocks and sterling

A pile of one pound coins is seen in a photo illustration shot on Jun 17, 2008. (File photo: Reuters/Toby Melville)

SYDNEY: Asian stocks bounced on Tuesday (Oct 4) after Britain scrapped bits of a controversial tax cut plan, tentatively improving global market sentiment and rallying bonds and the pound.

In trade thinned by holidays in China and Hong Kong, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 1 per cent, led by a 2.5 per cent gain in Australia.

Japan's Nikkei rose 2.6 per cent. Sterling drifted up to an almost two-week high of US$1.13, making for a bounce now of almost 10 per cent from a record low hit last week after plans for unfunded tax cuts unleashed chaos on British assets.

"The about-face ... will not have a huge impact on the overall UK fiscal situation in our view," said NatWest Markets' head of economics and markets strategy John Briggs.

"(But) investors took it as a signal that the UK government could and is at least partially willing to walk back from its intentions that so disrupted markets over the past week."

Investors also took heart from stability at the long end of the gilt market, even though emergency purchases from the Bank of England were only relatively modest.

S&P 500 futures rose 0.6 per cent, following a 2.6 per cent bounce for the index overnight.

British Finance Minister Kwasi Kwarteng released a statement reversing planned tax cuts for top earners. It makes up only 2 billion out of a planned 45 billion pounds of unfunded tax cuts that had sent the gilt market into a tailspin last week.

South Korea's Kospi bounced 2.3 per cent, lifting away from last week's two-year low, despite North Korea firing a missile over Japan for the first time in five years.

Ahead on Tuesday, the Reserve Bank of Australia meets to set interest rates with markets leaning toward expecting a 50 basis point hike.

STERLING BOUNCE

The recovery for sterling has settled some nerves in the currency market, though the persistent strength of the dollar still holds a lot of major currencies near milestone lows and has authorities throughout Asia on edge.

Japan's yen, for example hit 145 to the dollar on Monday - a level that prompted official intervention last week - and was last at 144.71. The euro was at US$0.98, about three cents stronger than last week's 20-year trough.

Chinese authorities have rolled out manoeuvres to support the yuan ranging from unusually strong signals to the market to administrative measures that raise the cost of shorting it.

"More volatility is almost certainly assured as FX markets re-focus on US recession risks, which continue to build," said ANZ senior economist Miles Workman, with US jobs data on Friday the next major data point on the horizon.

The Australian dollar wobbled around US$0.65 ahead of the central bank meeting. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand meets on Wednesday and the kiwi held at US$0.57.

Treasuries rallied in sympathy with gilts overnight and the benchmark 10-year yield dropped 15 basis points. It was steady in Asia at 3.64 per cent, having briefly poked above 4 per cent last week.

Other indicators of market stress abound. The CBOE Volatility Index remains elevated and above 30. Shares and bonds of Credit Suisse hit record lows on Monday as worry about the bank's restructuring plans swept markets.

Oil held overnight gains on news of possible production cuts, and Brent futures were last up 43 cents to US$89.29 a barrel.

Source: Reuters/st
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