TOKYO (Reuters) – Asian shares faltered while the yen firmed on Wednesday as investors maintained their risk aversive, spurred by continued weak corporate earnings results worldwide and worries about economic slowdowns.
Asian markets will also focus on HSBC’s latest report on China’s manufacturing sector due around 0145 GMT, with any negative surprise likely to further hurt fragile sentiment.
Global shares, gold and commodities fell while safe-haven assets such as U.S. Treasuries and the dollar rose on Tuesday. A retreat in risk appetite also pulled the Japanese yen off its multi-month lows against the dollar and the euro.
The MSCI index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan eased 0.3 percent on Wednesday.
South Korean shares opened down 1 percent, after SK Hynix Inc (000660.KS), the world’s No.2 computer memory chipmaker, reported a third-quarter operating loss before the market opened. Australian shares fell 0.7 percent, with miners and banks leading the declines.
“With uncertainty in global markets, investor concern is growing about the growth prospects of large-cap companies,” said Park Jung-sup, an analyst at Daishin Securities, of Korean equities market.
Japan’s Nikkei average opened down 1.3 percent.
A top European share index slid to its lowest level in more than one-and-a-half months on Tuesday while U.S. stocks fell.
The Dow industrials marked the biggest drop since June 21 after index members DuPont and United Technologies showed profit growth slowing, adding to a string of disappointments from companies falling short of Wall Street’s expectations.
U.S.-listed shares of foreign companies slid across the board on Tuesday, also on fresh worries over the euro zone’s debt crisis as Spanish bond yields rose after Moody’s Investors Service downgraded five of Spain’s regions.
Markets may remain cautious, but their response “is more geared towards consolidating risky assets near lower levels that justify bearing the risk, rather than the pre-announcing more difficulties to come”, Barclays Capital said in a research note.
Receding risk appetite underpinned the yen, with the dollar trading at 79.82 yen, off its highest since early July of 80.02 yen touched on Tuesday. The euro retreated from its 5/1-2 month high against the yen of 104.45 hit on Tuesday, trading at 103.52 yen.
Spot gold steadied at $1,710.19 an ounce, after falling 1.2 percent to a six-week low of $1,703.50 on Tuesday as other assets fell.
U.S. crude steadied at $86.78 after settling at a three-month low of $86.67 on Tuesday. Brent crude futures were also steady at $108.31.
The euro was at $1.2977, off Tuesday’s low of $1.2952 but well below last week’s high of $1.3140. The euro marked a low around $1.2804 this month.
Investors continue to wait for Spain to ask for aid to help manage its huge public debts with external funds and for Greece to agree to conditions attached by its global lenders in exchange for a further bailout.
Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung paper reported in its Wednesday edition, without citing sources, that euro zone states will grant Greece an extra two years to bring its budget deficit to within agreed targets.
The euro could be pressured if initial readings of euro zone purchasing managers’ index and a German Ifo business sentiment survey due later on Wednesday signal deepening deterioration.
“The tactical correction continues in what remains a subdued volatility environment. Positions are simply large and being cut down ahead of the U.S. elections,” Societe Generale said in a note. In the currency markets, the dollar will rise generally on “fears that a republican administration could take some unfriendly steps and would mean an exit of Bernanke.”
U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has told close friends he probably will not stand for a third term at the central bank even if President Barack Obama wins the November 6 election, the New York Times reported.
Under Bernanke, the Fed has taken aggressive easing policies to help underpin the tepid U.S. recovery. The Fed is unlikely to take fresh steps when it ends a two-day meeting on Wednesday, opting to assess the impact of last month’s aggressive quantitative easing measures.
(Additional reporting by Joyce Lee in Seoul; Editing by Michael Perry)