Asia shares fall as earnings caution sets in


Asian stocks and other riskier assets such as commodities fell on Monday as investors remained cautious about the outlook for the global economy and corporate earnings despite better-than-expected U.S. jobs numbers last week.

Wall Street stocks dipped late on Friday as an unexpected drop in the U.S. unemployment rate was overshadowed by concerns about the earnings season, which kicks off with Alcoa Inc on Tuesday, and S&P 500 futures traded in Asia eased on Monday.

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"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 rate 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 0.7 percent. Japanese financial markets were closed for a public holiday.

Equity markets have been rallying since hitting their nadir for the year in early June, receiving 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 over the year-to-date.

But with the euro zone sliding back towards 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 0.3 percent to just below $1.30, which helped the dollar advance 0.2 percent against a basket of major currencies .


Underlining the uncertain outlook for the global economy, the World Bank cut its growth forecasts for the East Asia and Pacific region on Monday and said there was a risk the slowdown in China could get worse and last longer than expected.

"China's slowdown this year has been significant, and some fear it could still accelerate," the World Bank said in its latest East Asia and Pacific Data Monitor, which was released 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 40 cents at about $111.60 a barrel and U.S. crude down nearly 50 cents at close to $89.40.

"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 dropped more than 1 percent to around $8,190 a metric ton (1.1023 tons) And gold lost 0.6 percent to about $1,770 an ounce.

(Additional reporting by Somang Yang in Seoul; Editing by Kim Coghill)