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Asia shares on defensive as oil extends losses, dollar choppy

TOKYO: Asian stocks were mostly on the defensive on Tuesday as the continuing slide in crude oil prices turned investors cautious towards risk assets, with the dollar touching a one-month low against the safe-haven yen in choppy trading.

Spreadbetters saw crude oil worries continuing into European trade, forecasting Britain’s FTSE to open as much as 0.3 percent lower, Germany’s DAX little changed and France’s CAX down 0.2 percent.

Stronger-than-expected Chinese trade data gave risk assets a limited lift, but it petered out as crude oil plumbed fresh multi-year lows.

South Korea’s KOSPI dipped 0.1 percent and Australian shares fell 0.3 percent. Tokyo’s Nikkei led losses in the region, declining 1.4 percent.

“Today’s drop is due to negative news accumulated during the long weekend,” said Takuya Takahashi, an analyst at Daiwa Securities in Tokyo. “Even U.S. jobs data were mixed, and U.S. earnings weren’t good.”

U.S. job growth increased briskly in December, but wages posted their biggest decline in at least eight years, even with a tighter labor market.

Declining oil prices added to concerns about U.S. corporate results as the release of earnings goes into full swing, with profit forecasts for S&P 500 energy companies having dropped sharply in recent months.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan see-sawed in and out of the red and was last up 0.1 percent.

The volatile Shanghai Composite Index was up 0.1 percent, trimming the bulk of its earlier gains.

Brent crude was down 2.1 percent at $46.45 a barrel after dropping 5 percent Monday to a near six-year low after Goldman Sachs warned that prices would fall further and as Gulf producers showed no sign of curtailing output. [O/R]

“Only the negative aspects of cheaper crude oil have been in focus so far, but attention could turn to its positive attributes if U.S. data on Wednesday can confirm an expansion in private consumption,” said Junichi Ishikawa, market analyst at IG Securities in Tokyo.

In currencies, the dollar hit a one-month low of 117.74 yen before pulling back to 118.60 against the yen, to which investors often turn when risk perceptions rise.

The greenback was still unable to hold its ground after briefly rising above 119 yen on Monday and remains far from a 7-1/2 year peak of 121.86 struck late in December.

The dollar’s sluggishness against the yen, exacerbated by a drop in U.S. Treasury yields, helped the euro steady at $1.1829 . The common currency continued to put some distance between a nine-year low of $1.1754 hit late last week.

The sell-off in equities worldwide over the past few sessions has been a further boon for government debt.

The U.S. 30-year bond yield fell to a near-record low overnight, while the five-year Japanese yield touched a record low of zero percent.

Sterling was stuck near 18-month lows against the dollar ahead of data later in the session seen likely to show easing U.K. inflation, which would further douse expectations of the Bank of England hiking rates.

The pound fetched $1.5159 , staying close to the 18-month trough of $1.5034 plumbed last week. (REUTERS)

 

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