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China PMI helps Aussie shares amid U.S., Europe worries

Published: May 1, 2012 | 8:16 am
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TOKYO – Asian shares inched up on Tuesday as Chinese factory data lent support to Australian stocks, but concerns about the U.S. economy and the euro zone capped prices.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.2 percent, after posting just a 0.4 percent gain in April.
Japan’s Nikkei stock average extended losses from Friday to fall 1.1 percent as a stronger yen hurt exporters. The market was closed on Monday for a public holiday.
Australian shares extended gains to a rise on the day of 0.5 percent after data showing China’s official purchasing managers’ index (PMI) rose to a 13-month high of 53.3 in April. The market had been up 0.2 percent before the data was released.
The PMI indicated a further expansion in the vast factory sector, which could mean more demand for Australian resources, but the index also came in below expectations of 53.6.
Beyond Australian shares, there was no specific market reaction. Most markets in Asia and Europe are closed on Tuesday to mark May Day holidays.
The Australian dollar was little changed at $1.0411 ahead of a policy decision by the Reserve Bank of Australia due later in the session. Many market players expect the central bank to cut its policy rate by 25 basis points to 4.00 percent.
“The Chinese PMI was better than last month but weaker than expectations, so the impact to markets was neutral,” said Yuji Saito, director of the foreign exchange division at Credit Agricole Bank in Tokyo.
“Market focus is on a slew of developments in Europe this week and key U.S. data. The dollar looks top-heavy against the yen but I don’t get a sense that it’s headed for a further drop,” he said.
Investor sentiment this week is likely to be shaped by U.S. data and the EU debt crisis.
The U.S. ISM manufacturing index on Tuesday and non-farm payrolls figures on Friday will offer investors clues on the shape of the U.S. economy and whether the Federal Reserve will have to lean towards offering more support.
The European Central Bank’s policy meeting on Thursday precedes weekend elections in France and Greece that could determine future progress in the euro zone’s austerity efforts, and may prompt the euro to break out of recent ranges.
The dollar recovered against a basket of major currencies to 78.784 after falling to a two-month low of 78.638 on Monday.
The yen edged back to 79.90 yen against the dollar after touching 79.73 yen on Monday, its highest in more than two months. The current rate represents roughly a 50 percent retracement of the dollar’s climb from this year’s low near 76 yen in early February to a peak around 84 yen hit in mid-March.
The dollar was down 3.6 percent against the yen in April, its weakest monthly performance since July 2011.
The euro was at $1.3237, near one-month high of $1.3270 hit on Friday.
Global stocks fell, the dollar and the euro weakened and the yen rose on Monday as investors shunned risk after data raised questions about the health of the U.S. economy and on concerns austerity measures could further undermine the euro zone’s vulnerable economies after Spain’s economy sank into recession in the first quarter.
After last week’s softer-than-expected first-quarter GDP, data on Monday showed consumers increasing their spending only modestly in March and a gauge of business activity in the Midwest falling sharply in April.
For Spain, economists said spending cuts aimed at meeting strict European Union deficit limits, together with a reeling bank sector, would delay any return to growth until late this year or beyond.
Oil stayed pressured by sluggish demand outlook, with U.S. crude futures down 0.1 percent at $104.72 a barrel and Brent futures falling 0.2 percent at $119.28 a barrel.


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