Reuters) – Asian stocks rose on Monday morning, after the recent sell-off, while the dollar struggled after U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke left the door open for further action to stimulate the economy and fight high unemployment.
Gains in equities were also supported by firmer U.S. stock futures after Hurricane Irene, downgraded to tropical storm status, caused less damage than feared in New York City.
Bernanke, speaking at an annual Fed conference at Jackson Hole, Wyoming on Friday, gave no details of further action to boost the U.S. recovery but said the central bank’s policy panel would meet for two days next month instead of one to discuss additional monetary stimulus, offering some hope to investors.
Given the dysfunctional nature of the political climate on both sides of the Atlantic and the diminishing probability of viable longer-term fiscal policies, monetary policy is the only viable short-to-medium-term policy response, said Viktor Shvets, regional strategist at Samsung Securities in Hong Kong.
The MSCI Asia Pacific ex-Japan index rose 2.2 percent led by cyclical sectors such as materials and energy.
The index is headed for its worst month since October 2008, as a U.S. sovereign rating downgrade by Standard & Poor’s and increasingly worrisome developments on the European debt situation deterred nervous investors.
South Korea’s KOSPI, the Asian market considered to be the most geared to a global economic recovery, led gains and was up 2.8 percent.
Japan’s Nikkei edged up 0.9 percent on subdued volumes ahead of a leadership election in the ruling party that will decide the country’s next prime minister.
The election itself is unlikely to have much market impact with investors focusing instead on the slew of economic data from the United States this week including the influential non-farm payrolls data due on Friday.
“U.S. jobs data is going to be much more important for setting the tone in the market, so people are looking at it for mid-term investment decisions,” said Kazuhiro Takahashi, general manager at Daiwa Securities.
A Reuters poll showed economist forecast non-farm payrolls may rise by 80,000 in August while unemployment may stay at 9.1 percent.
Stubbornly high unemployment coupled with the possibility of more monetary stimulus in the United States kept the dollar under pressure in Asian trading.
The dollar index, a measure of its strength against a trade-weighted basket of currencies, last stood at 73.755, having fallen from Friday’s peak of 74.464. Against the yen, the greenback traded at 76.69 yen, recoiling from a recent high around 77.69.
The U.S. currency, however, outperformed the Swiss franc, which came under broad pressure after Swiss bank UBS on Friday threatened to charge clients a fee on deposits, trying to discourage them from using some accounts to hoard the safe-haven currency because of financial market volatility.
In commodity markets, Brent crude fell below $111 per barrel on Monday as oil refiners and terminals along the U.S. east coast weathered the worst of Hurricane Irene, easing fears of fuel supply disruptions in the world’s top oil consumer.
NYMEX crude for October delivery was flat. Spot gold fell 0.5 percent to $1,821.99 an ounce retreating slightly from rally of more than 3 percent in the previous session.