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Asian stocks flat after Wall Street pullback, euro gains before ECB

Asian stocks flat after Wall Street pullback, euro gains before ECB
October 26, 2017
TOKYO (Reuters) - Asian stocks barely changed on Thursday, capped as Wall Street shares pulled back from record highs, while the euro stretched gains ahead of a European Central Bank meeting that could take a major step away from its accommodative policy.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was flat. Australian stocks and South Korea's KOSPI both inched down 0.1 percent. Japan's Nikkei, which had its 16-day winning run snapped the previous day, shrugged off Wall Street weakness and rose 0.2 percent, lifted by shares backed by strong earnings.

Shanghai stocks were up 0.4 percent. Taiwan was flat. US stocks fell on Wednesday on a batch of soft quarterly earnings, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average suffering its worst day in seven weeks after rising to a record peak the previous session.

Decliners included chipmaker AMD, which tumbled 13.5 percent after it flagged competitive pressures with a forecast that pointed to a drop in fourth quarter revenue from the third. In currency markets, the euro added to overnight gains to reach a six-day high of $1.1833, accompanying a rise by the German 10-year bund yield to a three-week top of 0.50 percent.

The rise by the euro and German yields was prompted by expectations the ECB would cut back its bond-buying stimulus and take the biggest step yet in unwinding years of loose monetary policy.

However, the central bank is still concerned about low inflation and is expected to accompany the tapering with an extension of the stimulus in a “less-but-for-longer” move. “The focal point is how long the ECB decides to spend on tapering its bond buying,” said Junichi Ishikawa, senior forex strategist at IG Securities in Tokyo.

“If the ECB opts to spend more than six months to taper, it will lead to thoughts that it won’t be able to move onto hiking interest rates until 2019,” he said. “The ECB could be seen as dovish in such a case and in turn weigh on the euro,” he said.

The dollar was 0.2 percent lower at 113.520 yen. The greenback rose to a three-month high of 114.245 yen overnight as the benchmark 10-year Treasury yield spiked to a seven-month peak of 2.475 percent.

But the dollar pared the gains as the Treasury yield retraced its rise amid the drop in Wall Street shares. The 10-year Treasury yield last stood at 2.429 percent. The dollar index against a basket of six currencies was down 0.15 percent at 93.565, its lowest in six days.

The South Korean won rose to an eight-week high against the dollar after data showed the domestic economy last quarter grew at its fastest pace in seven years. This raised market expectations for the Bank of Korea to hike rates in November.

The pound added to overnight gains and brushed $1.3278, its highest in 10 days. Sterling climbed almost 1 percent the previous day after stronger-than-expected UK growth data cemented expectations the Bank of England will raise interest rates next week.

Another big mover was the Canadian dollar, which slid 1 percent overnight to a three-month low of C$1.2816 per dollar after the Bank of Canada left interest rates steady as expected, but was seen to have sounded dovish in its policy statement.

The loonie rebounded slightly to last trade at C$1.2789 per dollar. US crude oil futures was 0.15 percent lower at $52.10 per barrel following data on Wednesday that showed a surprising increase in US crude inventories. Brent crude slipped 0.15 percent to $58.35 per barrel.