By Wayne Cole
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Asian shares hit historic highs on Monday as Wall Street extended its record-breaking run, while the U.S. dollar remained on the defensive as investors priced in the risk of tighter policies elsewhere in the rich world.
Activity was restrained somewhat as a U.S. holiday on Monday curbed trade in cash Treasuries, though E-Mini futures for the S&P500 made early gains of 0.2 percent.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.3 percent to 591.66, finally clearing the former all-time top of 591.50 from late 2007.
Australia’s main index firmed 0.5 percent, while futures for Japan’s Nikkei pointed to opening gains.
Investors were optimistic that Chinese gross domestic product data due on Thursday would show growth of at least 6.7 percent for the world’s second biggest economy.
Wall Street was on a roll as the fourth-quarter earnings season kicked off with solid results from banks and robust retail sales, driving investor optimism about economic growth.
The Dow amassed gains of 2 percent last week, while the Nasdaq gained 1.8 percent and the S&P 500 1.6 percent. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq scored eight record closing highs out of the first nine trading days of 2018, while the Dow boasted its sixth closing high of the year.
Earnings for S&P 500 companies are expected to increase on average by 12.1 percent in the quarter, with profit for financial services companies likely to increase 13.2 percent, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
“The big consensus trade of being short U.S. dollars into 2018 and long European and U.S. financials continues to work in earnest and this remains the key focal point in the week ahead,” said Chris Weston, chief market strategist at broker IG.
“The decline in the USD index was actually the biggest sell-off since 27 June, with prices closing below the Sept. 8 low. It just shows how much sway the USD bears have right now.”
DOLLAR IN DECLINE
The dollar index showed no sign of bouncing early on Monday, instead edging down to a fresh trough at 90.896.
The euro was up at a three-year peak of $1.2203 and holding all of Friday’s 1.3 percent surge.
The single currency has been bolstered by speculation European Central Bank policymakers are preparing to temper their vast monetary stimulus campaign.
Also helping was news German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU party and the Social Democrats (SD) were moving toward formal coalition talks.
Leading members of the Social Democrats said on Sunday they would press for improvements to the coalition blueprint, seeking to win over skeptical party members who can torpedo the deal.
The dollar was near a six-week low on the yen at 111.08 yen, while the pound was at its highest since mid-2016 at $1.3737.
The Canadian dollar also held firm on wagers the country’s central bank would hike interest rates at a policy meeting on Wednesday.
A softening U.S. dollar combined with resilient Chinese demand has been positive for most commodity prices.
Gold stood at $1,338.34 an ounce after reaching a four-month top of $1,339.34 on Friday.
Oil prices were a shade lower in early trade, but that followed six straight sessions of gains.
Brent crude futures eased 16 cents to $69.71 a barrel, while U.S. crude dipped 9 cents to $64.21.
(Reporting by Wayne Cole; editing by Richard Pullin)