Asia stocks up as weak data hurt Fed hike chances

Asian stocks firmed on Thursday after weak US data reduced the already low chance of an interest rate increase by the Federal Reserve at next week's meeting, sending the Treasury yield curve surging to its steepest level in 2-1/2 months.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS rose 0.15 percent. Japan's Nikkei .N225 advanced 0.3 percent, while Australian shares climbed 0.9 percent.

South Korean, Chinese, Taiwanese and Hong Kong markets are closed for holidays.

US August retail sales and manufacturing output fell more than expected, data released Thursday showed. The lacklustre reports prompted the Atlanta Fed to lower its third-quarter gross domestic product estimate to a 3 percent annual rate, from 3.3 percent earlier.

"Anyone still left calling for a September hike next week from the Federal Reserve must be feeling a bit hot under the collar after further signs of economic vulnerabilities," Chris Weston, chief market strategist at IG in Melbourne, wrote in a note.

"It’s no surprise to see reasonable buying in the short to medium duration US Treasuries, while the longer end of the curve hardly moved," he said.

The gap between five-year note yields and 30-year bond yields US5US30=TWEB widened to as much as 130.10 basis points on Thursday, the steepest since June 27.

Futures traders are pricing in a 12 percent chance of a rate increase this month, down from 15 percent on Wednesday, according to the CME Group’s FedWatch tool. Friday's consumer price inflation data is the next test for rates-focused traders.

The dwindling chances of a rate hike helped boost US stock indexes between 1 percent and 1.5 percent on Thursday.

Wall Street also benefited from a 3.4 percent jump in Apple (AAPL.O) shares, after the company said that the first batch of its new iPhone 7 Plus sold out globally.

Besides the Fed, the Bank of Japan also meets next week. The central bank will conduct a comprehensive review of its stimulus program after failing to reach its 2 percent inflation target.

Few Japanese companies see the central bank's aggressive monetary stimulus as achieving its stated goal of spurring inflation, a Reuters poll found, with firms citing negative fallout from the program more than positive effects.

On Thursday, the Swiss National Bank and the Bank of England held interest rates steady.

The SNB warned that significant risks remain after sticking with its ultra-loose monetary policy and currency intervention, while the BOE said it is still likely to cut interest rates to just above zero this year.

In currencies, the dollar extended Thursday's losses against the yen, falling 0.2 percent to 101.88 yen JPY=D4.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major peers, remained steady.

The euro

Oil prices pulled back after Thursday's gains of as much as 2.5 percent as renewed risk appetite stemmed a two-day rout.

Both Brent crude LCOc1 and U.S. crude CLc1 retreated 0.6 percent to $46.32 and $43.64 a barrel, respectively.