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U.S., Greek worries weigh on Asian shares, commodities

Published: November 13, 2012 | 8:49 am
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Asian shares and commodities pulled back on Tuesday on uncertainty over the U.S. fiscal row and the euro zone debt crisis, where global lenders stopped short of giving further aid to debt-stricken Greece.

A 0.6 percent easing in U.S. stock futures point to a weak Wall Street open, and expectations that European shares will slip, with financial spreadbetters predicting London’s FTSE 100, Paris’s CAC-40 and Frankfurt’s DAX will open down 0.4 percent.

The euro dropped 0.3 percent to a two-month low of $1.2673, which hoisted the dollar index to a two-month high of 81.20.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 1 percent to a seven-week low in a decline led by growth-sensitive energy and materials sectors.

Worries about weak global demand, underscored on Monday by data showing Japan’s economy shrank, and the firmer dollar weighed on commodities prices and some regional share indexes such as resource-rich Australia which fell 1.5 percent to a seven-week low.

Japan’s Nikkei average gave up early gains to end down 0.2 percent at a four-week low, a seventh straight session of decline.

“Investors can’t assess the extent of the impact from the fiscal cliff and it could be months before the issue is settled, so this uncertainty is keeping investors guarded,” said Yuuki Sakurai, chief executive of Fukoku Capital Management.

“This, along with Europe continuing to muddle through its fiscal problems, is putting downside pressure on markets.”

U.S. lawmakers return to the capital on Tuesday. Analysts say a failure to act on a scheduled $600 billion in tax increases and government spending cuts due early next year could tip the United States back into a recession.

Greece’s international lenders agreed on Monday to give Athens two more years to meet budget targets but euro zone finance ministers did not disburse more aid. Euro zone finance ministers will meet again on November 20 to discuss Greece.

Sakurai said market caution over the leadership transition in China this week is offsetting more bullish sentiment from recent data suggesting a pick up in the economy. Investors want to see the political change completed without any problems and the shape of the new leaders’ policies, he said.

Onshore Chinese shares slid to their lowest since September 28 and weighed on Hong Kong stocks after state media reported that housing market curbs will remain. Hong Kong .HSI shed 0.8 percent and Shanghai lost 1.3 percent.

Investors are taking the continuation of housing curbs “as perhaps a sign there won’t be any loosening or changes in Beijing’s economic policy positions in the near term,” said Hong Hao, chief equity strategist at Bank of Communications International Securities.


Reflecting the slight risk aversion, Asian credit market spreads on the iTraxx Asia ex-Japan investment-grade index widened by 1 basis point.

Safe-haven U.S. Treasuries rose in Asia on Tuesday, with 10-year yields falling to 1.589 percent from 1.613 percent in late U.S. trade on Friday. U.S. Treasury market was closed on Monday for the Veterans’ Day holiday.

U.S. crude futures fell 0.6 percent to $85.05 a barrel and Brent dropped 0.6 percent to $108.46.

“There is plenty of oil and the market is well supplied, but the economic outlook both in the United States and Europe is weak and that’s putting downward pressure on prices,” said Ken Hasegawa, a commodity sales manager at Newedge Japan.

London copper eased 0.4 percent to $7,605 a tonne and gold inched down 0.1 percent to $1,725.45 an ounce, having failed to test last week’s high around $1,738.

“I think there’s some disappointed selling. Of course a strong dollar also affects gold a little bit,” said Ronald Leung, director of Lee Cheong Gold Dealers in Hong Kong.

Analysts have said commodities are under pressure from hedge fund selling as they close their books for the year.


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