Asian shares gave up some of their recent gains in cautious trading on Wednesday while the dollar inched back from three-week lows, as worries about slowing global growth in several markets returned to weigh on traders’ minds.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.40%, edging off a three-week high reached the day before. In the past two weeks, the regional benchmark has regained much of the ground lost a few weeks earlier when markets globally dropped, spooked by the possibility that the U.S. Federal Reserve was moving closer to tapering its asset purchases. However, on Tuesday, Chinese blue chips fell 0.44% and Hong Kong 0.5%, as worries about slowing growth in China remained a drag.
The day before, China reported that factory activity expanded at a slower pace while the services sector slumped into contraction, showing that China’s current soft patch is continuing in the third quarter,” Mansoor Mohi-uddin, chief economist, Bank of Singapore, wrote in a note. Mohi-uddin added that “authorities may become more open to providing further monetary and fiscal stimulus to keep the economy from experiencing a broader slowdown for the rest of the year.”Australian shares fell 0.58%, paring earlier losses slightly, after figures showed gross domestic product (GDP) grew 0.7% in the June quarter. ANZ analysts said ahead of the release that the figures would be “largely old news. The more pressing question is how large the September quarter GDP contraction will be”.
Japan’s Nikkei however gained 0.89%, boosted by data showing that Japanese companies’ capital spending rose in the second quarter, the first such increase since the pandemic began. Fears about slowing growth are not unique to China. Overnight, Wall Street finished marginally lower on Tuesday, after U.S. consumer confidence fell to a six-month low in August as soaring COVID-19 infections and rising inflation dampened the economic outlook.
However, the slightly subdued ending to August failed to detract from a strong monthly performance by the U.S.’ three main indexes, helped by a dovish tone from a speech from Fed Chair Jerome Powell last Friday.
As Powell also suggested an improvement in the labour market is one major remaining prerequisite for the Fed to taper its asset purchases, much attention is also focused on U.S. payroll data due on Friday.
Yields on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes gained slightly in Asian hours at 1.3256% compared with the U.S. close of 1.302%, but were still sitting roughly in the middle of the range in which they have traded for the past two months.In currency markets, the dollar index, which measures the greenback against six rivals, rose marginally having fallen to a three-week low the day before.Oil was steady, with U.S. crude at $68.49 a barrel, and Brent crude at $71.72 per barrel, neither changed much on the day, having finished August with their first monthly losses since March.An OPEC+ meeting, where major producers will decide whether to go ahead with their plan to add supply, is due to take place later today.