Morning Report

Equity

Asian shares started cautiously on Wednesday as investors waited to see if U.S. President Donald Trump drops any hints of progress on tariffs in his State of the Union speech.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was flat with China and several other markets in the region still closed for the Lunar New Year holiday. Japan’s Nikkei edged up 0.3 percent, while E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 barely budged.

The Dow ended Tuesday up 0.68 percent, while the S&P 500 gained 0.47 percent and the Nasdaq 0.74 percent.

Treasury bonds also bounced, helped by data showing a surprisingly soft U.S. service sector index of 56.7, with new orders falling to a one-year low.

Currency

The dollar held up well thanks in part to a retreat in sterling, which hit two-week lows at $1.2922 after poor survey data and uncertainty about Brexit talks pushed it below a key market level.

Against a basket of currencies, the dollar was firm at 96.064 and well above last week’s low of 95.162. It was steady on the yen at 109.94.

The euro slipped to $1.1407 after a survey showed on Tuesday that euro zone businesses expanded at their slowest pace since mid-2013 at the start of the year.

The Australian dollar was a rare gainer after the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) sounded less dovish than speculators had wagered on at its first policy meeting of the year on Tuesday.

Oil

In commodity markets, the Wall Street Journal reported Saudi Arabia and its Persian Gulf allies were proposing a formal partnership with a 10-nation group led by Russia to try to manage the global oil market, an alliance that could transform the cartel.

U.S. crude futures rose 15 cents to $53.81 in early trade. Brent had ended Tuesday down 40 cents at $62.11.

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