Asia stocks inch higher after mixed U.S. corporate earnings

(Reuters) – Asian equities made cautious gains in early trade on Wednesday following mixed U.S. corporate earnings while oil prices looked set for more wild swings as storage concerns capped optimism about easing coronavirus lockdowns.

FILE PHOTO: A man wearing a protective face mask, following an outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19), walks past a screen showing the Nikkei index outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, March 13, 2020. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Technology stocks drove all three major U.S. stock indexes into the red, though they remained within 20% of their February all-time highs.

“There was a big sector rotation as money left high value, growth sectors in tech like Amazon and went to value and cyclical sectors like energy, industrial, financials,” said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment strategist at Inverness Counsel in New York.

Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) earnings beat analysts’ estimates for quarterly revenue as its Google unit posted double-digit advertising growth despite the coronavirus-induced slowdown. While users were searching more, they were looking up less commercial topics and advertisers were cutting spending.

In early Asian trade, Australia was up 0.3% and South Korea .KS11 climbed 0.2%. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.2% at 467.95. Japan’s markets .N225 were closed for a public holiday.

Markets were looking for any forward guidance from the U.S. Federal Reserve, which is due to issue a policy statement at the close of its two-day meeting on Wednesday. The European Central Bank meets on Thursday.

Analysts said it was unlikely the Fed would make further major policy moves, given the scope and depth of its efforts to counter the economic damage caused by the coronavirus.

Reassuring UBS earnings lifted European banks nearly 5%, while Wall Street digested upbeat numbers from industrial conglomerate 3M Co (MMM.N), a maker of N95 respirator masks, and drugmaker Pfizer Inc (PFE.N).

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 0.13%, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 0.52% and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 1.4%.

The greenback gave back some earlier losses as stocks came off their highs on concerns the coronavirus could spread further than previously thought if businesses reopened prematurely.

The dollar index against a basket of currencies fell 0.089%. The euro EUR= slipped 0.11% to $1.0816 while the euro index eased after Fitch cut Italy’s credit rating to BBB-, just one notch above ‘junk’ status.

The Japanese yen strengthened 0.35% versus the greenback at 106.87 per dollar, while sterling GBP= was last trading at $1.242, down 0.06% on the day.

The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury US10YT=RR rose 12/32 in price to yield 0.6161%, from 0.654% late on Monday.

Oil prices ended mixed with Brent up on positive sentiment about the easing of lockdowns, while U.S. crude traders remained cautious as storage capacity were filling up fast.

Crude prices rose in post-settlement trading after data showed a slightly smaller-than-expected buildup in stockpiles.

U.S. crude recently rose 2.66% to $13.12 per barrel, and Brent was at $20.74, up 3.75% on the day.

(This story corrects erroneous reference to Japanese markets in paragraph 5, which are closed for a public holiday).

Reporting by Chibuike Oguh; Editing by Sam Holmes

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