Asian shares ease on signs of weak US consumer

Asian shares ease on signs of weak US consumer
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First Published: Mon, Jan 18 2010. 01 05 PM IST
Updated: Mon, Jan 18 2010. 01 05 PM IST
Hong Kong: Most Asian stocks fell on Monday following No. 2 US bank JPMorgan’s heavy losses on mortgage and credit card loans which cast doubt on consumer demand in the region’s largest export market.
But European shares are seen recouping Friday’s losses, with the DJ Euro Stoxx futures are rising 0.5%.
The US dollar and the yen fell after strengthening initially when investors unwound riskier trades. The euro remained under pressure, hurt by concerns about fiscal problems buffeting Greece, which has seen its budget deficit balloon and its credit ratings cut.
Euro zone finance ministers had little patience left for Greece after it misled them about the size of its deficit and would be ready to impose sanctions on Athens if needed, euro zone sources said.
Sentiment in Asia remained cautious.
“We are quite cautious still considering the environment we are in -- some companies are doing better but the reality is it is a tough environment,” said Alex Boggis, fund manager at Aberdeen Asset Management, which oversees about $240 billion.
“The hard work is still to be done in terms of exporters not really kicking in and Asia still being geared to exports. It takes a long time to convert exports into consumption.”
The MSCI index of Asia Pacific stocks traded outside Japan, which fell as much as 0.8%, was down 0.1%.
The Thomson Reuters index of regional shares was down 0.23%.
US stocks fell around 1% on Friday as JPMorgan’s results raised concerns about profits at banks and on data showing American consumer sentiment was weaker than expected, which followed a poor retail sales report earlier in the week. US markets will be closed on Monday for the Martin Luther King day holiday.
Japan’s Nikkei average fell 1.2%, coming off a 15-month high struck last week, with bank shares leading declines over fears the market’s recent rally was over done.
Hong Kong shares were under pressure as the property and banking sector lead the decline. Although Chinese banking shares were weak in the mainland market, the Shanghai benchmark ended up 0.4% on gains in airline stocks.
Fears that Beijing is moving to curb credit growth to avoid inflation and economic overheating rattled shares in China and the rest of Asia last week.
Traders say a raft of Chinese data this week, ranging from fourth-quarter gross domestic product to December retail sales and industrial production could give clues on whether domestic consumption in China is helping offset persistent weakness in US demand and if monetary policy tightening is around the corner.
“It will be important to see if China is beginning to experience inflation and whether there will be any tightening,” said Andrew Sullivan, a sales trader with broker MainFirst Securities in Hong Kong.
“If there isn’t then obviously it is happy days. If there is -- it will put further strain on market valuations.”
Worries over Greece spark exits from risky trades
The euro slid to a four-month low against sterling as the British currency gained ground on the dollar and the yen following a rise in UK house prices and as the euro continued to be weighed down by concerns about Greece’s fiscal woes.
The euro fell as far as 88.03 pence, its lowest since mid-September, down 0.5% on the day.
The US dollar and the yen were firm while currencies leveraged to global growth like the Australian dollar ran into a bout of profit-taking after an impressive run up since the start of the new year.
Investors will also be closely watching more US earnings this week, with the financial sector in focus, traders said.
Bank of America and Morgan Stanley should report on Wednesday and Goldman Sachs is expected on Thursday. Tech companies such as IBM and Google Inc are also expected this week.
Oil prices tumbled, extending losses for a sixth session to below $78 a barrel, after the International Energy Agency cut its view on 2010 global oil demand growth.
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First Published: Mon, Jan 18 2010. 01 05 PM IST
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