Asia drained by HK unrest, China PMI offers minor relief

Asia drained by HK unrest, China PMI offers minor relief

TOKYO - Asian shares slumped on Wednesday as continued civil unrest in Hong Kong and a downbeat day on Wall Street sapped confidence, while the dollar index was close to a four-year high after marking its best quarterly gain in six years.

European stocks were expected to follow suit, ahead of manufacturing data for Germany, France, Italy and Spain. Financial spreadbetters expected Britain's FTSE 100 and Germany's DAX to down 0.3 per cent each, and France's CAC 40 to open 0.4 per cent lower.

Trading in Asia was subdued with China closed for National Day and investors warily monitoring Hong Kong's pro-democracy unrest, as thousands of protesters stepped up pressure on the city's pro-Beijing government.

A Chinese manufacturing survey offered investors some relief, and helped put a floor under prices. The official Purchasing Managers' Index was unchanged at 51.1 in September, slightly above market expectations, though the world's second largest economy was not out of the woods yet.

"The economy still faces a degree of downward pressure," Chen Zhongtao, an official at the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing, which helps to compile the PMI data, said in a statement.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 0.3 per cent, though above session lows.

Japan's Nikkei stock average ended down 0.6 per cent, despite trading positive for a few hours after the dollar broke above the 110-yen level for the first time since August 2008.

"The Japanese market has been able to escape a blow from a sell-off in emerging market currencies thanks to the weak yen, but you can't stay overly optimistic because it can be a threat," said Norihiro Fujito, a senior investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.

The Bank of Japan's closely watched tankan survey of business sentiment released before the market opened showed big manufacturers' confidence improved slightly in the latest quarter, but service-sector sentiment worsened, adding to evidence that a sales tax hike continues to weigh on the economy.

The dollar added about 0.2 per cent against the yen to 109.84, after rising to a six-year high of 110.09 yen earlier.

That helped lift the dollar index, by about 0.1 per cent to 85.999, back toward a four-year high of 86.218 touched overnight.

The euro skidded as low as $1.2571 on Tuesday after data showed cooling euro zone inflation, the culmination of a dismal month in which the currency slipped 3.82 per cent - its biggest decline in over two years. It was last down about 0.1 per cent on the day at $1.2620.

Data on Tuesday showed annual inflation cooled to 0.3 per cent last month, well below the European Central Bank's target of just under 2 per cent, increasing speculation the bank will take more easing steps.

The Chinese PMI helped oil crawl off its overnight lows, but crude prices remained pressured by the dollar's momentum. A stronger dollar raises the price of dollar-based commodities for holders of other currencies.

Brent crude added about 0.3 per cent on the day to $94.95 a barrel, after marking a 16 per cent loss for the quarter, the biggest in two years. US crude added about 0.3 per cent to $91.48 a barrel after shedding 12 per cent for the quarter, also its biggest quarterly loss in two years, and posting its biggest daily decline since 2012.

The stronger dollar also took a toll on gold, which marked its first quarterly loss this year. Spot gold slipped about 0.2 per cent to $1,205.56 an ounce.


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