Asian shares ease after Fed-led rally

2012-09-18 07:56

Tokyo - Asian shares retreated from four-month highs on Tuesday while gold and copper eased, as markets paused from sharp gains inspired by the Federal Reserve's aggressive stimulus and turned instead to concerns about the growth slowdown in China.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.5% as investors calculated the impact on growth from the Fed's additional easing while taking profits from its loftiest point since May 3 touched on Monday.

The pan-Asian index soared some 3% since the Fed launched a third round of bond buying known as quantitative easing (QE3) on Thursday, which spurred a broad based jump in riskier assets.

European equities were seen edging down after slipping from 14-month highs on Monday, while a 0.1% rise in US stock futures suggested a steady Wall Street open. Financial spreadbetters called London's FTSE 100, Paris's CAC-40 and Frankfurt's DAX to open down 0.1%.

Commodity-reliant Australian shares eased 0.1% while Shanghai shares slid 0.7%.

"Investors are really in defensive mode today, and probably will stay that way until Thursday, when we get the fresh read on manufacturing out from China," said Juliana Roadley, a market analyst at Commonwealth Securities, referring to the HSBC flash purchasing managers' index (PMI).

Amid slackening demand from top customer China, Australia on Tuesday revised down minerals and energy export revenues by 9% to A$190bn ($200bn) in the year to June 30, 2013. It also cut its revenue forecasts for iron ore by a fifth.

Chinese shares were pulled down by commodities-related stocks following steep overnight losses in physical markets.

"It's definitely making some people wonder if hedge funds were unwinding their positions this quickly after the QE3 announcement, but it's a bit too early to say that it reflects anything about their longer term view on the Fed's action," said Edward Huang, equity strategist with Haitong International Securities.

The Nikkei stock average gave up early gains to edge down 0.1%, caught between a supportive weaker yen and concerns over firms having large exposure to China, where anti-Japan protests were escalating as tensions mounted over a territorial dispute between Asia's two biggest economies.

Masayuki Doshida, senior market analyst at Rakuten Securities, said sentiment was also underpinned by expectations that the Bank of Japan will follow the Fed with its own stimulus measures, to stem the yen's appreciation after the Fed's move last week. The BOJ ends its two-day policy meeting on Wednesday.

The yen traded at ¥78.62 to the dollar, off a one-week low of ¥78.93 touched on Monday. The Fed's move undermined the dollar and lifted the yen to a seven-month high of ¥77.13 on Thursday.

Euphoria dies

The dollar index measured against a basket of key currencies stayed near Friday's 6-1/2 month low of 78.601.

The euro eased 0.1% to $1.3096, slipping from a 4-1/2 month high of $1.31729 hit on Monday.

Oil pared earlier gains to trade steady, with US crude oil futures at $96.62 a barrel and Brent trading at $113.72.

Copper was down 0.1% at $8 293.25 a tonne.

Spot gold fell 0.3% to $1 754.99 an ounce, below a 6-1/2-month high of $1 777.51 hit on Friday.

"Gold has been rising steadily so it's natural that profit taking takes place in the short term," said Yuichi Ikemizu, branch manager for Standard Bank in Tokyo.

But over the longer term, the Fed's accommodative stance will stoke inflation fears and undervalue the dollar, bolstering gold's appeal as a hedge against these factors, he said, adding that he expected firm support at $1 730, with markets likely to test last year's peak above $1 900 before the end of the year.

Asian credit markets were a touch softer, with the spread on the iTraxx Asia ex-Japan investment-grade index widening by 2 basis points but still near a 14-month low.

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