Published October 15, 2012
TOKYO – Asian shares fell on Monday on growth concerns ahead of the third-quarter corporate earnings season, while the euro slipped against the dollar on a lack of clarity over Spain's bailout prospects.
As risk-sensitive assets retreated, the dollar index measured against a basket of six major currencies gained 0.3 percent, undermining dollar-denominated commodities.
The euro slipped 0.3 percent to $1.2909 as Europe muddles through debt relief measures for debt-saddled Spain and Greece.
A stronger dollar and worries that a slowing global economy may further dent fuel demand pushed U.S. crude futures down over $1 to $90.82 a barrel, before regaining some ground, and were last trading down 0.8 percent at $91.09. Brent crude had slipped 54 cents to $114.08 a barrel by 0427 GMT.
Gold, which normally benefits from risk-aversion, extended losses to touch a 2-1/2-week low of $1,741.24 an ounce on stop-loss selling.
European shares are expected to inch down, while U.S. stock futures were barely changed. Financial spreadbetters expected London's FTSE 100 , Paris's CAC-40 and Frankfurt's DAX to open down as much as 0.2 percent.
The MSCI index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> fell 0.3 percent, but Japan's Nikkei average <.N225> erased earlier losses to add 0.4 percent as investors bought back shares after the index closed at two-month lows on Friday.
Hong Kong shares slipped from Friday's highest levels in more than five months, weighed down by profit warnings from Chinese firms.
"The profit warnings are a sign that China still needs to do more to support growth, but I think most people are expecting more fiscal than monetary measures," said Jackson Wong, Tanrich Securities' vice-president for equity sales.
A decline in Chinese consumer and producer prices in September left scope for policy easing to underpin growth.
On Friday, U.S. stocks wrapped up their worst week in four months, led lower by financial shares. More financial institutions will report earnings in coming days, including Citigroup , Goldman Sachs and Bank of America , amid concerns about their shrinking profit margins.
"People are just cautious, quite reluctant. It is not only equities, it is property and a whole range of asset classes, people are happy to have the money in the bank rather than put it to work," said Burrell & Co director Richard Herring.
"We will probably need a good earnings reporting season out of the U.S. or a change in the environment here - a more certain outlook," Herring said.
Data over the weekend from China, the world's second-largest economy after the United States, showed broad M2 money supply rose more than expected in September while its exports grew at roughly twice the rate expected in September and imports recovered.
"The better-than-expected upswing in Chinese exports follows similar outcomes for Taiwan and Korea and may be consistent with a bottoming in global manufacturing PMIs in suggesting a possible stabilization or improvement in global growth," said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital.
Commodity currencies failed to cling to an early lift, with the Australian dollar falling 0.4 percent to $1.0218, close to the near three-month low of $1.0149 plumbed a week ago.
U.S. POSES RISK
The encouraging Chinese data could not completely dispel concerns about the global slowdown, with the euro zone's prolonged debt crisis dragging on.
Investors should brace for three or four months of jittery markets due to uncertainty over support for Spain and the looming "fiscal cliff" threatening the U.S. economy, BlackRock Chief Executive Laurence Fink told Reuters on Saturday. Fink warned that the U.S. stock market could lose 5 to 10 percent in a correction in the final months of the year.
"Markets have yet to fully reflect concerns about the 'fiscal cliff' but the issue represents a major downside risk," said Takao Hattori, senior investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities in Tokyo.
Orders related to the U.S. military industry may feel the pinch as automatic across-the-board budget cuts will begin on January 2 if there is no deal on deficit reductions, Hattori added.
The era of rising Western spending on weapons and wars is over, providing a more challenging environment for major arms manufacturers.
Euro zone officials said Spain could ask for financial aid from the euro zone in November, paving the way for the European Central Bank's programme to buy bonds of struggling euro zone states that ask for assistance.
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has said his government expects to agree on a new austerity package with its lenders and for the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to bridge their differences on how to cut the country's debt by the time EU leaders meet on October 18-19.
Asian credit markets weakened, with the spread on the iTraxx Asia ex-Japan investment-grade index widening by 2 basis points.
(Additional reporting by Ian Chua in Sydney, Victoria Thieberger in Melbourne and Clement Tan in Hong Kong; Editing by Richard Borsuk)