Asian shares, dollar edge down as markets eye Greece
TOKYO – Asian shares and the dollar edged down in Asian trade on Thursday, with investors on ice ahead of a meeting of European Union leaders later in the session as Greece continued last-minute efforts to avert a default.
Athens’s talks with creditors bogged down on details, with next week’s deadline to repay 1.6 billion euros ($1.79 billion)to the International Monetary Fund looming, and threatening to trigger Greece’s removal from the euro zone.
The EU leaders are scheduled to convene in Brussels later on Thursday.
“Expect more conflicting reports today, some positive and some negative. We have no idea how this will end,” Carl Weinberg, chief economist at High Frequency Economics, wrote in a note to clients.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was a few ticks lower but holding close to the previous session’s close.
Japan’s Nikkei stock index fell about 0.3 percent after hopes for a resolution to Greece’s debt crisis had helped propel it on Wednesday to its highest level since 1996.
The Nikkei pulled off its session lows, underpinned by news that the U.S. Senate passed legislation that would help President Barack Obama seal the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-nation Pacific Rim trade pact. Japan would be the second-largest economy in the scheme, and investors hope its passage would life a broad range of Japanese companies.
Wall Street logged losses overnight, but U.S. stock futures edged up about 0.2 percent in Asian trade.
The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major rivals, was down about 0.1 percent at 95.163.
The euro inched up on the day to $1.1218, while the dollar slipped about 0.2 percent in the day against the yen to 123.61.
“Euro/dollar responded less compared to dollar/yen as underlying optimism that a [Greek] deal will be sealed by the month’s remains intact amid pessimism over the talks breaking down,” said Junichi Ishikawa, market analyst at IG Securities in Tokyo.
Wednesday’s U.S. gross domestic product data revealed that the final figure for the first quarter was a 0.2 percent contraction, a good smaller than the previously estimated 0.7 percent. That reinforced expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve is on track to raise interest rates this year, perhaps as early as September.
In commodities trading, U.S. crude was nearly flat in early Asian trade at $60.28 a barrel after plunging more than 1 percent on Wednesday on a government report showing that an eighth straight weekly drop in U.S. crude stockpiles was offset by a large build in refined products. Brent crude rose about 0.3 percent to $63.68.
Spot gold rose about 0.2 percent to $1,177.22 an ounce after sliding for the past four sessions to a two-week low. – Reuters