Published October 08, 2012
SINGAPORE – Asian stocks and other riskier assets such as commodities fell on Monday as the World Bank cut its growth forecasts for East Asia, underlining concerns over the global economic outlook, and caution set in about the coming corporate earnings season.
European index futures also slipped, leaving markets there poised to give up some of last week's gains.
Wall Street stocks dipped late on Friday as an unexpected drop in the U.S. unemployment rate was overshadowed by worries about the earnings season, which kicks off with Alcoa Inc on Tuesday, and S&P 500 futures traded in Asia eased on Monday.
"It (the jobs number) looks good if you were worried about an imminent collapse back into recession or if you had performed badly in a presidential debate," said Russell Jones, global interest rates strategist at Westpac bank in Sydney, in a note.
"But the reality is that it remains consistent with a U.S. economy growing around or a little below trend, no more."
S&P 500 earnings for the third quarter are forecast to have fallen 2.4 percent from the year-earlier period, which would be the first decline in three years, according to Thomson Reuters data.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia Pacific shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> fell 0.9 percent. Japanese financial markets were closed for a public holiday. Euro STOXX 50 index futures opened down 0.8 percent, while financial bookmakers called London's FTSE 100 down around 0.5 percent.
CENTRAL BANK SUPPORT
Equity markets have broadly been rallying since hitting a nadir for the year in early June. They received a renewed burst of impetus last month when major central banks rolled out fresh measures to support fragile economies.
MSCI's Asia Pacific ex-Japan and All Countries World Indexes are both up around 13 percent year-to-date.
But with the euro zone back in recession amid a still unresolved debt crisis and the U.S. recovery far from secure, investors remain reluctant to chase growth-sensitive riskier assets too aggressively.
"We've arrived at one of the sorts of levels where the market needs to see a bit more evidence of a medium-term outlook before it takes prices much beyond current levels," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney.
A private sector survey showing a rebound in China's services sector in September after its growth hit a one-year low in August had little immediate impact on markets.
The euro fell about 0.4 percent to below $1.2985, which helped the dollar advance 0.3 percent against a basket of major currencies .
Euro zone finance ministers were meeting on Monday to formally launch the region's permanent bailout fund, with market attention focused on whether and when Spain will request external aid as it struggles to recapitalize its banks.
Traders and analysts say the euro could get a boost if Spain makes such a request as that would open the way for the European Central Bank to buy Spanish debt to help bring down Madrid's borrowing costs.
WORLD BANK CUTS ASIA OUTLOOK
Underlining the uncertain outlook for the global economy, the World Bank cut its growth forecasts for the East Asia and Pacific region and said there was a risk the slowdown in China could get worse and last longer than expected.
"Unlike the rest of the region, China is experiencing a double whammy - the growth slowdown is driven by weaker exports as well as domestic demand, in particular investment growth," World Bank Chief Economist for East Asia and the Pacific Bert Hofman said at a briefing in Singapore.
China, the engine of global growth in recent years and a key consumer of commodities, is due to release at the end of next week its growth data for the third quarter, which analysts expect to be the weakest three months of the year.
The World Bank expects China's GDP growth for 2012 as a whole to come in at 7.7 percent, which would be its lowest in more than a decade.
Oil fell, with Brent crude off around 70 cents at about $111.30 a barrel and U.S. crude down around 80 cents below $89.10.
"Oil is still finely balanced," said Michael Creed, an economist at National Australia Bank.
"On one hand, we still have a slowing economy and what that means for oil demand. On the other hand, there is oil supply risk at the moment."
Copper, also dependent on industrial demand, dropped 1.5 percent to around $8,175 a metric ton.
Gold lost 0.6 percent to about $1,770 an ounce.
(Additional reporting by Somang Yang in Seoul, Thuy Ong in Sydney and Florence Tan and Kevin Lim in Singapore; Editing by Richard Borsuk)