TOKYO (Reuters) – Asian shares steadied on Thursday and the safe-haven dollar eased after positive U.S. data, leaving investors waiting for more economic indicators from the world’s largest economy later in the day and a European Central Bank policy meeting.
Weekly jobless claims and U.S. factory orders for August will be released later on Thursday, as well as minutes from the U.S. Federal Reserve’s September 12-13 meeting when the central bank launched aggressive stimulus packages aimed at bolstering jobs.
These reports precede Friday’s monthly payrolls data, the first such labour market update since the Fed’s action.
“The FOMC minutes may shed some light on any possible dimensions surrounding the improvement in the labour market the committee is looking for and scale of purchases they are willing to undertake,” ANZ Bank said in a research.
“The ECB meeting on Thursday is likely to be low key following an eventful meeting last month.”
The European Central Bank, which last month unveiled a programme for buying bonds of struggling euro zone states which ask for assistance to help ease their financing stress, is expected to keep interest rates at a record low of 0.75 percent.
The MSCI index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan inched up 0.1 percent. Australian shares were up 0.1 percent, after a 14-month closing high on Wednesday boosted by an interest rate cut and a weaker local dollar. South Korean shares were steady.
Chinese markets are closed this week for public holidays.
Japan’s Nikkei average opened up 0.4 percent.
Bleak demand outlook stemming from global economic slowdown drove oil prices sharply lower and pushed down European shares on Wednesday, while Wall Street ended modestly higher on better-than-expected U.S. labor and service-sector data.
“We think the market cautiousness comes from second thoughts about Europe,” Barclays Capital said in a research note.
A slight recovery in shares capped the dollar index, which is measured against a basket of six major currencies. The index stood down 0.1 percent. The dollar traded at 78.45 yen after rising to a two-week high of 78.585 on Wednesday.
The Australian dollar was up 0.1 percent at $1.0223, off a one-month low of $1.0196 seen on Wednesday.
The euro edged up 0.1 percent to $1.2917, stuck in the middle of a three-week low of $1.28035 touched on Monday and a 4-1/2 month high of $1.31729 seen in mid-September.
Data showed growth in the U.S. services sector, which dominates the world’s biggest economy, accelerated in September and private employers added more jobs last month than expected.
But euro zone business activity gauge suggested it was almost inevitable the region returned to recession in the third quarter, as dwindling new orders and faster layoffs nudged the index lower in September.
Investors have switched back to worrying about grim economic prospects after global policy steps to support growth and calm market jitters last month inspired a broad market rally.
Sentiment has also been weighed by a delay in a widely expected rescue for Spain, the latest symbol of the euro zone’s debt crisis, as well as ongoing negotiations between Greece and its international lenders over the fiscal austerity details needed to be cleared in exchange for a crucial bailout.
Still, expectations that Spain will ask for a bailout and the ECB’s latest policy moves have eased fears of the region’s debt crisis, causing options investors to seek the least protection against the euro’s drop in more than two years.
Three-month euro/dollar risk reversals remain biased to puts, or the right to sell euros at a future date, trading as low as 0.90 percent, but that was a level not seen since March 2010, according to Reuters data.
The International Monetary Fund stands ready to help Spain in multiple ways if Madrid seeks its aid, IMF chief Christine Lagarde said in a newspaper interview published on Wednesday.
Portugal on Wednesday returned to bond markets for the first time since its 78 billion euro bailout last year.
U.S. crude was up 0.1 percent to $88.26 a barrel, rebounding from a two-month low of $87.70 on Wednesday, while Brent was down 0.1 percent at $108.11 after falling to a two-week low of $107.67.
(Editing by Michael Perry)