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Australian shares set for cautious trade as investors focus on Covid situation

A man looks at an electronic board displaying stock information at the Australian Securities Exchange in Sydney, Australia, on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018.

Brendon Thorne | Bloomberg | Getty Images

SINGAPORE — Australian shares looked set to open on a cautious note Monday as investors focus on the Covid-19 situation in the country.

SPI futures traded a touch lower than the benchmark ASX 200’s last close on Friday.

The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7333 against the greenback. The Aussie fell from levels above $0.7400 following a resurgent dollar Friday on the back of strong nonfarm payrolls data.

Australia reported 280 new Covid cases over a 24-hour period on Sunday, with most of them in the populous state of New South Wales. Reports said that about 15 million people, or 60% of the country’s population, are under a strict lockdown.

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Hiring in the U.S. rose at its fastest pace in nearly a year in July despite fears over the Covid-19 delta variant and tight labor supply issues.

“The market reacted positively to the strong non-farm payrolls data, with a risk-on move (not always the case this year),” said analysts from ANZ Research in a Monday morning note.

“The strength of data gives credence to the Fed’s view that the labour market will maintain momentum through the summer, even with the concerns around the Delta variant,” the analysts wrote, adding that while there is still a long way to go toward reaching full employment, Friday’s figures offset some of the pessimism that had been building.

Markets in Japan and Singapore are closed for public holidays.

China’s export growth unexpectedly slowed in July while imports also lost momentum. Exports rose 19.3% from a year ago, compared with a 32.2% gain in June and versus a market forecast of a 20.8% gain, Reuters reported. Imports rose 28.1% from a year earlier, less than a market forecast of a 33% increase.

“Extreme weather conditions and local Covid outbreaks have not helped while supply disruption have also hampered export activity,” said Rodrigo Catril, a senior foreign-exchange strategist at the National Australia Bank, in a morning note.

China is expected to release inflation data on Monday.

Lack of consumer inflationary pressures are “not an obstacle for further policy easing, a topic likely to garner more attention if further economic slowdown becomes evident in the incoming data flow,” Catril said.

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar traded at 92.881 against a basket of its peers as of 7:22 a.m. HK/SIN.

Oil prices fell Monday morning during Asian trading hours. U.S. crude was down 1.57% at $67.21 a barrel while global benchmark Brent fell 1.47% to $69.66.

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