Singapore: Asian stocks fell on Wednesday and the dollar sagged after uninspiring comments from US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke added to worries about the slowing global economy.
Bernanke acknowledged an economic slowdown in the United States, but offered no suggestion of further stimulus to support growth, souring sentiment across equity markets and towards the dollar as investors expect U.S. interest rates to remain low for a longer period of time.
The dollar fell to a one-month low below ¥79.92 as speculative selling pressure intensified after a series of stop-loss orders were triggered around ¥80.
The Nikkei average fell 0.4%, with gains in financials helping to temper weakness in other sectors.
JPMorgan raised its ratings on major Japanese banks, some of which are big lenders to Tokyo Electric Power Co , the operator of Japan’s tsunami-crippled nuclear plant, to “overweight” from “neutral”, spurring short-covering in their battered shares.
MSCI’s index of Asia-Pacific stocks outside Japan shed nearly 1% and looked set for its fifth straight losing session. Consumer discretionary and resources shares continued to see the heaviest selling on fears of cooling demand.
“When you see the weaker U.S. dollar, people do get concerned about the global growth story,” said Justin Gallagher, head of sales trading at RBS Australia in Melbourne.
The euro rose to a one-month high of $1.4696 as the dollar floundered, but fears of a Greek debt default were expected to limit further advances.
Greece needs substantial fresh aid from the euro zone to avoid the currency bloc’s first state insolvency, a German newspaper reported on Tuesday, citing German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble.
“We are facing the real risk of the first uncoordinated state insolvency within the euro zone,” die Welt newspaper quoted Schaeuble as writing in a letter to, amongst others, European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet.
The paper said Schaeuble argued for a new bailout of Greece with a “substantial” expansion of European aid and with private creditor involvement
The euro also rose against the yen on Japanese institutional demand.
OIL EXTENDS SLIDE
Brent crude was off 0.8% at $115.83 a barrel, after gaining $2.30 on Tuesday. Investors are trying to assess whether Opec will raise production targets.
Gold slipped to $1,540 but analysts see plenty of room for its continued rise as investors retreat from riskier assets.
Gold is still well below a lifetime high around $1,575 touched in early May, but with the U.S. dollar under pressure, equities markets falling and the debt crisis in Europe far from over, bullion continues to be one of the chief beneficiaries of the latest bout of market volatility.
US stocks fell for a fifth day on Tuesday after Bernanke’s comments. The Dow Jones industrial average fell nearly 0.2%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index slipped 0.1%.