Asian shares falter on Bernanke comments

Asian shares falter on Bernanke comments

Hong Kong: The dollar dipped on Tuesday after Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke dampened speculation of an early US interest rate rise, while shares faltered on renewed concern about the strength of the global recovery.

The dollar edged down 0.2%, against a basket of major currencies after Bernanke said the US economy faced “formidable headwinds" including tight credit conditions, cooling expectations for an early rate rise which were prompted by promising US jobs data on Friday.

The Fed was sticking to a pledge to keep rates at exceptionally low levels for an “extended period", Bernanke said.

Asian shares weakened as investors were both relieved that the United States was not about to accelerate an upturn in the global interest rate cycle, but concerned about the outlook for the world’s biggest economy and Asia’s leading export market.

Japan’s Nikkei slid 0.5% after hitting a six-week closing high on Monday, as investors took profits on shares of exporters and as trading house stocks lost ground after metal prices fell on Monday.

“The selling is a combination of the slightly stronger yen and the speed with which the Nikkei rose over the last six days, making it only natural for the market to take a bit of a breather today," said Takashi Ushio, head of the investment strategy division at Marusan Securities in Tokyo.

Markets were little fazed by news that the government had finalized a 7.2 trillion yen ($80.6 billion) stimulus package, slightly more than its original plan.

The government also said it was closely watching exchange rate movements as the yen edged up to 89.05 to the dollar from 89.53 late in New York trade.

A lacklustre performance by Wall Street also made Asian investors cautious as the Dow Jones gave up early gains after Bernanke’s comments and ended flat.

US President Barack Obama is due to lay out proposals to combat double-digit unemployment at a speech scheduled for 9:55pm, although they are unlikely to move markets, analysts said.

The MSCI index of Asia Pacific stocks traded outside Japan was down 0.3% while the Thomson Reuters index of regional shares was unchanged.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 0.8% but banking giant HSBC Holdings dropped 1.5 percent ahead of a meeting between debt-laden Dubai World and its key creditors, including HSBC, on Tuesday.

The meeting will discuss the Middle East conglomerate’s request to delay payment on $26 billion in debt, which has shaken global markets in the past few weeks.

Gold rebounded to $1,163 an ounce from $1,157 at the New York close as the dollar lost ground, while oil prices were steady at $74 a barrel after sliding 2% on Monday.

Asian currencies, hurt overnight along with other riskier currencies by news that Standard & Poor’s had put Greece on negative credit watch, rebounded as the dollar slipped on receding US rate rise expectations.

The Australian dollar bounced back to $0.9162 from an overnight low of $0.9054.