SHAFAQNA – Asian shares were mostly lower on Monday after sobering data highlighted the sluggishness of the region’s key economies and tempered the lift from much stronger-than-expected U.S. employment numbers.
Spreadbetters expected a subdued start for European stocks, forecasting Britain’s FTSE .FTSE, Germany’s DAX .GDAXI and France’s CAC
The dollar hovered at multi-year highs against the yen after Treasury yields spiked on the robust U.S. employment report.
Indicators released on Monday showed that China’s trade performance in November was much weaker than expected while Japan’s economy in the third quarter shrank even more than initially reported.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS slipped 0.2 percent. Tokyo’s Nikkei .N225 edged up 0.1 percent with the downward revision to Japan’s GDP neutralizing much of the positive impact from a weaker yen. South Korea’s Kospi .KS200 lost 0.4 percent while Singaporean and Malaysian shares also dipped.
The Shanghai composite index .SSEC gained 2.9 percent after the downbeat Chinese data added to hopes that China will implement more stimulus to shore up its economy.
“Shockingly, (China’s) imports contracted by 6.7 percent year-on-year – their weakest performance since the Lehman crisis (except the volatile Lunar New Year-related period), said Dariusz Kowalczyk, economist at Credit Agricole in Hong Kong.
“This is partly a reflection of lower commodity prices and base effects, but these two factors cannot fully explain the weak import number and we have to assume that poor domestic demand has played a part. This means that pressure will rise on the government to do more to stimulate growth,” he said.
The Australian dollar, sensitive to the economic fortunes of China, its main export destination, touched a new 4-1/2 year low of $0.8288 AUD=D4.
The disappointing Chinese and Japanese data contrasted sharply with Friday’s U.S. non-farm payrolls that showed employment in November surged by 321,000, easily topping forecasts for 230,000 new jobs.
The dollar was steady at 121.515 yen JPY= after touching a new seven-year high of 121.860. The dollar index .DXY hovered near a 5-1/2 year high of 89.467.
A bullish dollar worked against crude oil, with the stronger greenback making commodities denominated in the U.S. currency less affordable for holders of other currencies.
Brent crude LCOc1 lost 92 cents to $68.15 a barrel, approaching a five-year low of $67.53 hit last week, with a forecast cut by Morgan Stanley exacerbating the fall.
The dollar stood tall against the euro, which languished near a two-year low of $1.2270 EUR=.
The euro and yen are expected to remain on the defensive against the dollar indefinitely as the strong U.S. jobs data further contrasted the divergent monetary policy paths of the Fed and its European and Japanese counterparts which are mired in underwhelming easing schemes.
The Malaysian ringgit MYR=MY and Indonesian rupiah IDR=ID fell against the dollar to lows not seen since the 2008-9 global financial crisis after the upbeat U.S. jobs data lifted expectations for an early Fed rate hike.
Higher U.S. interest rates are seen eroding the attractiveness of higher yields in the region.