Asian stocks gave back earlier modest gains and fell back from a decade high on Monday, weighed by weakness in the Chinese and South Korean markets, while the euro reached a two-month top against the dollar. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose early in the session on Friday’s Wall Street gains but was last down 0.65 percent. The index rose to its highest since 2007 on Thursday with as equity markets have enjoyed strong support this year thanks to corporate earnings rising on the back of an improving global economy. South Korea’s KOSPI fell 1.3 percent as tech shares slumped following an analyst’s report suggesting the memory chip “super cycle” would soon fade, led lower by Samsung Electronics. Strength in technology shares pushed the S&P 500 and Nasdaq to record highs on Friday but observers noted that demand for tech-related products such as semiconductors could slacken. “Global sales of semiconductors expanded greatly in the third quarter. But demand could slow in the fourth quarter as a reaction to this sharp increase, and there are warning signs such as reversals in price trends,” wrote Yoshimasa Maruyama, chief market economist at SMBC Nikko Securities in Tokyo.
Shanghai shares were down 0.7 percent, reaching a three-month low. Chinese shares were already on a shaky footing after last week when investor confidence was sapped by fresh government steps to reduce financial risks, and a rout in the bond market. Japan’s Nikkei pared earlier gains and fell 0.3 percent. In currencies, the euro traded little changed at $1.1922 after nudging up to $1.1946 earlier, its highest since Sept. 22. The common currency rode on momentum from Friday after data showed German business confidence hit a record high in November, a sign the European Union’s largest economy is on track for a boom. The euro was also helped by Germany’s Social Democrats’ agreement on Friday to hold talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel on renewing their outgoing coalition government. Political uncertainty in Germany stemming from Merkel’s apparent failure to form a governing coalition talks knocked the euro early last week. The euro’s strength kept the dollar’s index against six major rivals at 92.805, not far from a two-month low of 92.675 plumbed on Friday.
The dollar lost 0.15 percent to 111.375 yen. The Australian dollar dipped 0.3 percent to $0.7597 after rising nearly 0.75 percent the previous week. The New Zealand dollar rose 0.1 percent to $0.6855, recovering some of Friday’s losses. U.S. crude oil futures rose to a 2-1/2-year high of $59.05 per barrel on Friday. A continued shutdown of a U.S.-Canada pipeline triggered supply concerns, while the prospect of OPEC extending production cuts when the group meets this week also boded well for oil. Nonetheless, U.S. crude was last down 24 cents at $58.71 per barrel, while Brent crude slipped 6 cents to $63.80 per barrel.