Asia stocks off to cautious start, eye China data
By Wayne Cole
SYDNEY (Reuters) - Asian share markets made a cautious start to the week on Monday ahead of a raft of Chinese data that could confirm a slowdown in the giant economy, as much of the world races to stem the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19 with vaccinations.
Figures on retail sales, industrial production and urban investment are forecast to show a modest pullback in activity in China in July, a trend likely to be worsened by the recent tightening in coronavirus restrictions.
There was some uncertainty about the possible geopolitical implications of the sudden collapse of the Afghan government and what it mean for political stability in the region.
"Asia's low vaccination rates and low tolerance for community spread suggest it is the region most at risk economically from the Delta variant," said JPMorgan economist Bruce Kasman.
"China is in the midst of removing policy supports, which looks likely to restrain domestic demand growth and weigh on regional performance through the rest of this year," he added. "With these drags building in recent weeks we have been lowering 2H21 regional growth forecasts."
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was flat in early trade, having hit its lows for the year last month.
Japan's Nikkei fell 1.2%, though economic growth pipped forecasts for the June quarter.
Nasdaq futures and S&P 500 futures were both down 0.1% in early Asian action.
Wall Street had managed fresh records last week even as a survey showed a shock slump in U.S. consumer sentiment to the lowest since 2011 amid Delta fears.
The dismal report pulled 10-year Treasury yields down 8 basis points on Friday to leave them at 1.28%, erasing a week of steady increases. [US/]
It also wiped out a week of gains for the dollar, sending it back to 92.517 against a basket of currencies from a near five-month top of 93.195.
The euro bounced to $1.1797 and away from major chart support at $1.1740, while the dollar recoiled to 109.51 yen from a peak of 110.79.
Kim Mundy, a senior currency strategist at CBA, argued the dollar could rally this week if minutes of the Federal Reserve's last policy meeting confirm a hawkish shift on tapering.
The minutes are out on Wednesday while Fed chair Jerome Powell is speaking on Tuesday.
"We expect the FOMC to announce it will taper its monthly asset purchases in September if the August payrolls is strong," said Mundy.
"We judge a tapering announcement next month is not widely expected, so if the minutes show the FOMC discussed the possibility of announcing a taper as soon as September, we expect the dollar to jump."
In commodity markets, gold extended its bounce to $1,779 in the wake of a sudden stop-loss tumble to $1,684 at the start of last week. [GOL/]
Oil prices eased in early trade partly on concerns coronavirus travel restrictions would hurt demand, particularly in China. [O/R]
Brent fell 28 cents to $70.31 a barrel, while U.S. crude lost 31 cents to $68.13.
(Editing by Lincoln Feast.)
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