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Asian shares await Chinese data, oil prices soft

TOKYO: Asian shares mostly steadied on Thursday as investors awaited a flurry of Chinese economic indicators later in the day, but energy stocks slumped after oil prices fell to four-year lows.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS ticked up 0.1 percent.

Japan’s Nikkei .N225 added 0.2 percent after big gains in the previous two sessions on expectations that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will postpone a planned tax hike next year to support theeconomy.

China industrial output, investment and retail sales data are expected to show a cooling in the world’s second largesteconomy, with fixed-asset investment, an important driver of growth, seen growing at its slowest pace in nearly 13 years between January and October.

In oil markets, Brent crude futures LCOc1 fell below $80 a barrel on Wednesday for the first time since 2010, and remained soft on Thursday.

Saudi Arabia’s oil minister did not make clear on Wednesday whether the kingdom would support a cut in oil production at the OPEC meeting on Nov. 27, even as he dismissed talk that the country is engaged in a “price war” with fast-growing U.S. shale oil or other rival producers.

Even rising tensions in Ukraine did not lift oil prices. Ukraine said on Wednesday it was redeploying troops in the east because of fears that separatists will launch a new military offensive. Russia denies it has sent troops to reinforce the rebels.

As lower oil prices dragged on U.S. energy stocks, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 0.1 percent on Wednesday, ending a five-day winning streak.

Still, the sharp fall in energy prices is easing inflationary pressures globally, allowing central banks to adopt looser monetary policy that will eventually support prices of riskier assets, said Nobuhiko Kuramochi, strategist at Mizuho Securities.

“In Asia, countries such as Vietnam and South Korea have cut rates, so did Sweden… Given the disinflationary trend worldwide, we could see more central banks easing, which should support the global economy,” he said.

In the currency market, sterling fell to a 14-month low of $1.5760 after the Bank of England’s view on weak domestic inflation pushed back expectations on the timing of an interest rate hike into late 2015.

The dollar held firm against other currencies on the prospects of solid growth in the Unites States, though it lacked momentum as its failure to gain on a fairly upbeat U.S. jobs data last week has prompted traders to lock in recent gains.

The dollar index stood at 87.764 .DXY, off Friday’s four-year peak of 88.190.

Against the yen, the dollar traded at 115.54 yen, just below the seven-year high of 116.11 hit on Tuesday. The euro fetched $1.2446, off Friday’s two-year low of $1.2358.

Gold was at $1,160.38 per ounce, above Friday’s 4 1/2-year low of $1,131.85. -REUTERS

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