Shares fall as Europe debt worry stings risk appetite

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, April 4, 2012. — Reuters picTraders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, April 4, 2012. — Reuters picTOKYO, April 5 — Asian shares fell today after a weak Spanish bond sale heightened concerns about funding difficulties by lower-rated euro zone countries, further undermining sentiment hurt by fading expectations for more stimulus from the US Federal Reserve.

Japan’s Nikkei average fell 0.8 per cent, extending losses below 10,000 after putting in its worst performance in five months a day earlier, while MSCI’s broadest index of Asia Pacific shares outside Japan fell for a second straight session, easing 0.1 per cent.

Shanghai markets are set to resume trading after being closed for public holidays from Monday to Wednesday.

The renewed risk aversion after a strong performance for many equities markets in the first quarter comes as players factor in less support for global economic growth. This includes the potential for the effect of the European Central Bank’s huge liquidity injections to fade and waning expectations of more monetary easing.

Barclays Capital analysts said markets look set to experience a bit of déjà vu, with two themes — European debt and the direction of US monetary policy — likely making a return.

“More policy support from the ECB in the near term appears unlikely, following the hawkish slant in tone during its press conference. Widening peripheral European government bond spreads, higher Treasuries, higher implied volume, a lower euro and a stronger dollar are reminiscent of past episodes of elevated European concern,” they wrote in a note to clients.

Yesterday, global stocks fell over 1 per cent, gold tumbled to its lowest in nearly three months, while commodities as well as commodity-linked currencies and the euro were also stung.

While stocks were weaker today, risk currencies steadied with the Australian dollar off a near three-month low of US$1.0245 hit yesterday, and the euro holding above US$1.3100 after falling nearly one per cent the day before.

Borrowing costs for Spain, the euro zone’s fourth largest economy, jumped at bond auctions yesterday, with the 10-year bond yield leaping to 5.7 per cent, its highest since January. It overshadowed a successful step back into debt markets by similarly highly indebted Portugal.

Ten-year Spanish yields had fallen as low as 4.6 per cent in late January as cheap ECB cash fuelled a rally in weaker periphery state debt.

But ECB President Mario Draghi appeared relaxed about the rise in Spanish yields.

Draghi also dismissed a German-led push for the ECB to start planning a retreat from emergency crisis-fighting, but stressed it was keeping a close eye on price pressures, which led some financial market analysts to detect a shift in tone of monetary policy.

Spot gold inched up 0.2 per cent to US$1,623 (RM4,869) an ounce, and oil also climbed, with US crude futures up 0.6 per cent to US$102.11 a barrel. Brent crude was up 0.3 per cent at US$122.65 a barrel after falling two per cent yesterday.

Asian credit markets weakened, however, with the spread on the iTraxx Asia ex-Japan investment-grade index widening by six basis points.

Some market players said such fears may be overdone, pointing to a key gauge of how investors perceive risk, the VIX index.

The VIX, which measures expected volatility in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index over the next 30 days, failed to keep its gains after rising above resistance at its 50-day moving average. The index hit a high of 17.74 yesterday, its highest in nearly a month, before retreating. A fall in the index reflects easing risk aversion.

Upbeat US private-sector jobs data by payrolls processor ADP showing employers added 209,000 jobs in March, above 200,000 forecast, was largely shrugged off by the market.

The report suggested the labour market was continuing to strengthen ahead of key nonfarm payrolls data due tomorrow, which is expected to show the US economy likely added 203,000 jobs last month, after February’s non-farm payrolls rose 227,000. — Reuters


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