Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Asia shares dip; dollar shaky on cautious Fed

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Asian shares dipped on Thursday, and the dollar fell after the U.S. Federal Reserve vowed to keep rates near zero for "an extended period" and said the recovery of the world's biggest economy would be sluggish.

The Fed's pledge to stick to a very loose monetary policy was expected and gave investors little new to trade on, although its cautious economic outlook prompted light profit taking.

Shares of exporters were hit by Asian currencies' modest gains. The dollar index was flat at around 75.8 but the U.S. currency was quoted at 90.54 yen, down from 90.75 in late Asian trade on Wednesday, and slipped against other currencies.

"I do not think the Fed signaled any change," said Richard Grace, chief currency strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia. "The policy guidance remains the same. I think the downtrend in the U.S. dollar is intact and we could see the dollar index fall to around 74 in the short term."

Japan's Nikkei .N225 slid 1.4 percent as the yen's advance hurt exporters, but Nissan Motor (7201.T: Quote, Profile, Research) was up 1 percent after soaring sales in China prompted the carmaker to reverse its annual outlook to a profit from a loss.

A rise in the Korean won, to as high as 1,174 to the dollar from 1,178.4 at Wednesday's close, also hurt exporters in Seoul where the KOSPI index .KS11 tumbled 1.4 percent. That was despite upbeat economic data, including double-digit department store sales growth and a further rise in exports to China last month.

"Investors are looking at the first batch of fourth-quarter indicators now that we are unsure about whether markets will remain solid in November or not," said Kim Seung-han, a market analyst at HI Investment & Securities in Seoul.

The Dow Jones .DJI rose just 0.3 percent on Wednesday, giving up earlier gains after the Fed's statement, which said the lack of inflation pressure would enable it to maintain loose monetary policy.

Network equipment vendor Cisco Systems (CSCO.O: Quote, Profile, Research) posted positive earnings after the bell though, sending its shares up 3.1 percent. And there was encouraging economic news as data showed the U.S. services industry grew modestly for a second month in October and private sector job losses slowed.


In Asia, the MSCI index of Asia Pacific stocks traded outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS was down 0.9 percent while the Thomson Reuters index of regional shares was 1.4 percent lower.

Shares in Australia were down 0.8 percent, but toll-road operator Transurban Group (TCL.AX: Quote, Profile, Research) surged as much as 20 percent after the company rejected a takeover offer by two Canadian pension funds but said it was open to talks.

Japanese government bond futures fell, tracking a slide in longer-term U.S. Treasuries overnight on investor fears of excessive government debt supply after the Fed's statement.

The euro was down slightly at $1.4841, from $1.4865 in early trade, as investors awaited a European Central Bank meeting later on Thursday. The ECB is expected to keep interest rates at a record low but may give clues on when it will start weaning banks off cheap funds.

The Bank of England also meets on Thursday with policymakers set to decide whether to inject more stimulus into the British economy.

Gold hovered around $1,088 an ounce after hitting another record high overnight, at $1,097.25.

In New Zealand, markets were still pricing in monetary tightening by the end of April but the Kiwi dollar fell after comments from the central bank that the economic recovery was more vulnerable than in Australia and after the jobless rate hit a nine-year high at 6.5 percent.

"New Zealand has had a recession, and the pick-up is slower and more vulnerable -- a difference financial markets do not appear to appreciate," Reserve Bank of New Zealand Governor Alan Bollard said in notes prepared for a business group.

The Kiwi fell to as low as $0.7192, from around $0.7270 before Bollard's comments.

The oil price dipped 0.6 percent to $79.9 a barrel, after gaining more than $3 a barrel in the past three days.

(Additional reporting by Gyles Beckford in Wellington, Kim Yeon-hee in Seoul and Anirban Nag in Sydney; Editing by Jan Dahinten)

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