U.S. stock futures up on North Korea, euro shaken by Italy, oil falls

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TOKYO (Reuters) – U.S. stock futures rose on Monday on signs that the United States and North Korea are still working towards holding a summit next month, while oil prices extended losses on expectations of more supply from major producers.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., May 21, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The euro edged up from a 6-1/2-month low but is seen vulnerable after efforts to form a coalition government in Italy, the currency bloc’s third-biggest economy, collapsed over the weekend.

U.S. S&P500 mini futures rose 0.3 percent in early Asian trade, but market holidays in the world’s two biggest financial centers — London and New York — could make trading slow and illiquid for the day.

Japan’s Nikkei gained 0.3 percent in early trade, while South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.5 percent, buoyed by stocks which are seen as benefiting from a further thawing in tensions with Pyongyang.

But markets elsewhere in Asia appeared little fazed by the latest North Korean news after a week of conflicting signals from Washington. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was flat.

President Donald Trump said on Sunday a U.S. team had arrived in North Korea to prepare for a proposed summit between him and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which Trump pulled out of last week before reconsidering.

“While we can’t say for sure how much they can agree, both sides seem to want to make progress,” said Nobuhiko Kuramochi, chief strategist at Mizuho Securities.

Mizuho sees a 10 percent chance that the summit, so far planned on June 12, will not take place, a 20 percent chance of a truce deal struck at the meeting and a 70 percent likelihood of the summit leading to more talks without producing immediate deals on denuclearisation, he said.

Oil prices extended their decline since last Tuesday on growing expectations that major oil producers may ease their 17-month-old production cuts.

A return to the oil production levels that were in place in October 2016, the baseline for the current deal to cut output, is one of the options for easing curbs, Russia’s energy minister said on Saturday.

His comments came after the energy ministers of Russia and Saudi Arabia met to review the terms of a global oil supply, ahead of a key OPEC meeting in Vienna next month.

Brent crude futures dropped to as low as $75.71 per barrel, their lowest level in about three weeks. They last stood at $76.05, down 0.5 percent.

U.S. crude futures dropped to $67.00 per barrel, their May 1 low of $66.85 and last stood at $67.37, down 0.8 percent.

In the currency market, the euro bounced back from a low of $1.1646 touched on Friday to trade at $1.1685.

Italian president Sergio Mattarella rejected a eurosceptic pick for the key economy ministry by the two anti-establishment parties aiming to form a coalition government, the 5-Star Movement and the League.

5-Star leader Luigi Di Maio, whose party won the most seats at an inconclusive March 4 vote, demanded that parliament impeach Mattarella, triggering a possible constitutional crisis and opening the prospect of fresh elections.

The 10-year Italian bond yield has risen 67 basis points, or 0.67 percentage point, so far this month, on course to make its biggest monthly rise since late 2011.

Its yield spread over benchmark German Bunds rose above 200 basis points for the first time in over a year.

“If the Italian debt prices fall further, people will have to do more hedging, say by selling the euro and so on. The issue will be the biggest focus for markets this week,”

While no one thinks the country will default, people need to make hedging when they face sharp price moves,” said Takafumi Yamawaki, head of currency and fixed income research at J.P. Morgan Securities in Tokyo.

Investors are also increasingly wary of Spain, where Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is facing growing pressure to resign over a graft case involving his party.

The spread of the Spanish-German debt yields rose to about 105 basis points, the highest since January.

The dollar rose 0.3 percent against the yen in early Monday trade to 109.66 yen, extending its recovery from Thursday’s 108.955 on optimism on the upcoming U.S.-North Korea summit.

Elsewhere, bitcoin traded at $7,343, falling below its 365-day moving average, which stood around $7,360.

Editing by Kim Coghill

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