Chinese property developer Evergrande has said it would pay some of the bond interest due on Thursday, allaying fears of an imminent and messy collapse that had spooked investors.
Markets in Taiwan and China reopened lower after a two-day break, catching up with a sharp sell-off around the world triggered by concern over Evergrande’s predicament.
But stocks picked up after the promise to repay an estimated 232 million yuan ($35.88m), buoyed the mood.
Evergrande is still due to pay $83.5m in interest on a separate US dollar bond, but the signal on Wednesday that it has at least some ready cash for creditors seems to have cheered investors.
“We are still trying to understand what this payment means for the other bonds but I imagine they would want to stabilise the market and make other coupon payments, given the close scrutiny,” said a source familiar with the situation told Reuters.
“That provides some reassurance,” said Ryan Felsman, senior economist at brokerage firm CommSec in Australia. “We may see certainly some improvement in terms of the volatility … it looks as though we’re going to see a little bit of a risk rally.”
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was 0.3% lower mid-morning. Japan’s Nikkei fell 0.6%, while Australian shares rose 0.7%. Hong Kong, where Evergrande has its main listing and where its shares have crashed 85% this year, was closed for a holiday.
S&P 500 futures reversed an early loss to trade slightly higher after Evergrande pledged to pay the scheduled coupon on a yuan bond that is due on Thursday. Safe-haven assets such as the yen and treasuries also sold after the announcement.
The news also helped the risk-sensitive Australian dollar, although anticipation that the Federal Reserve may move a step closer to tapering later on Wednesday kept a lid on gains and the mood.
Globally, markets had also already started to calm down as analysts downplayed the threat of Evergrande’s troubles becoming a “Lehman moment” and setting off a financial crisis.
Overnight on Wall Street the S&P 500 fared little worse than flat, to sit about 4% below a record peak made early in the month.
Evergrande’s distress has already spread to other Chinese developers, but investors are now anticipating that the global fallout can be contained and concern is shifting to worrying about more gradual economic consequences.
“[The] Evergrande debacle is further stoking concern over the fallout from China’s broadening crackdown,” analysts at Rabobank said in a note to clients, pointing to new rules on everything from online gaming to developers’ debt levels.
“As a consequence, Evergrande can perhaps be seen not so much as a potential crisis trigger but rather a symptom of a broader policy shift which threatens Chinese growth as politics dominate economic considerations.”
In currency markets, the Australian dollar jumped 0.3% to $0.7253 after Evergrande’s news and the yen handed back small early gains on the euro and the dollar.
Moves were capped ahead of Wednesday’s Fed meeting, however, and the dollar was firm at $1.1727 against the euro. The 10-year US Treasury yield lifted as high as 1.3450% from a morning low of 1.3140%.
Most analysts think the Fed will not go into detail about its tapering plans but say risks lie in board members’ “dot plot” of rates projections.
“Even though a tapering announcement is not expected, the dot plot may deliver a hawkish surprise and require Powell to be dovish and push back in the press conference,” said National Australia Bank’s director of economics and markets, Tapas Strickland.
The outcome of the Fed’s meeting is announced at 6pm GMT, with a news conference half an hour later.
In commodities, copper hovered near a month low and oil prices found support from a relaxation of inbound travel rules, likely to boost airline fuel demand.
Brent crude futures were last up 0.9% at $75.02 a barrel and US crude rose 1% to $71.18. Gold was supported at $1,776 an ounce.