Asia shares subdued as US data disappoints, fret over Greece, China
TOKYO – Asian stocks were little changed on Friday, with investors reluctant to stake out fresh positions after disappointing US employment data and cautious ahead of Greece’s weekend referendum which may decide its future in Europe.
China’s increasingly volatile markets may upstage Greek concerns in the session, after that country’s securities market regulator said it had opened an investigation into suspected market manipulation after a slump of more than 20 percent in Chinese stocks since mid-June.
On Thursday, Shanghai’s benchmark composite index .SSEC fell below 4,000 points for the first time since April – a key support level that analysts had expected Beijing to defend.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was slightly lower in early trading, on track for a 0.5 percent weekly loss, while Japan’s Nikkei stock index slipped 0.4 percent, poised to lose over 1 percent for the week.
US markets will be closed on Friday in observance of Independence Day. On Wall Street on Thursday, major stock indexes logged losses, after employment data was not as robust as many had expected.
Employers hired 223,000 workers last month, fewer than the 230,000 increase forecast by economists polled by Reuters. The government also downgraded its reading on April and May job growth.
Investors had been hoping that solid improvement in the labour market would reinforce expectations that the US Federal Reserve will raise interest rates as early as September.
“It is not that market expectations have radically changed. But markets are pushing back their expectations a little bit. Some people who expected a September hike may now see a rate rise in December,” said Yoshinori Shigemi, global market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management.
US interest rate futures price gained a few ticks following the data, with a hike in December now seen as less certain than before, despite recent comments from Fed officials that interest rates will likely be raised later this year.
The 10-year US Treasuries yield fell to 2.386 percent from a high of 2.470 percent hit just before the payroll data.
Caution reigned ahead of Greece’s Sunday referendum on an international bailout deal that could ultimately determine whether it stays or not in the euro zone.
The International Monetary Fund warned on Thursday that Greece would need an extension of its European Union loans and a potentially a large debt writeoff if it cannot implement economic reforms and its growth slows.
“Investors will probably look to JPY as a risk-hedge going into the referendum,” Steven Englander, global head of G10 FX strategy at Citi, said in a note to clients.
The dollar was buying 123.06 yen, flat on the day and holding well above a five-week low of 121.93 hit on Tuesday.
The euro was also steady on the day at 136.42 yen, and $1.1086.
In commodities trading, US crude fell about 0.6 percent to $56.60, after data from Baker Hughes showed the number of rigs drilling for oil rose by 12 this week, the first rise since December. [O/R]
Iron ore prices are under pressure, with Shanghai rebar futures hitting record low on Thursday on demand concerns.
That in turn put pressure on the Australian dollar, which stood at $0.7750. –Reuters