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Asian shares restrained by gloomy data

Wednesday, August 13 08:55:18

Asian shares eked out modest gains on Wednesday, as investors remained cautious after downbeat data from China and Japan and as the crisis in Ukraine threatened a fragile economic recovery in Europe.

Mainland Chinese shares were knocked off their highs by surprisingly weak loans data, and other data released later in the session also missed expectations. Some economists believe further stimulus may be needed to sustain the recovery and offset the drag from the cooling property market.

The cautious mood was seen extending into the European day, with financial spreadbetters expecting mixed starts around the region. Britain's FTSE 100 was seen opening down 0.2 percent, while Germany's DAX and France's CAC 40 was seen rising 0.2 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively.

Japan's Nikkei share average ended up 0.4 percent, shrugging off downbeat growth data, while MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan added 0.2 percent.

China's National Bureau of Statistics released figures in the afternoon showing industrial output rose 9 percent in July from a year earlier, as expected, while retail sales climbed 12.2 percent, a shade below forecasts. Fixed-asset investment, an important driver of economic activity, also missed forecasts, growing 17 percent in the first seven months from the same period last year.

Shanghai shares, which had risen sharply over the past few weeks on hopes of recovery in Chinese economy, reversed their earlier rise to an eight-month high and were down 0.4 percent .

Investors were also wary of developments in Ukraine as a convoy of 280 Russian trucks carrying humanitarian aid headed for eastern Ukraine, where government forces are closing in on pro-Russian rebels.

In further evidence that tit-for-tat sanctions between the West and Russia are placing a burden on the European economy, a survey on Tuesday showed German analyst and investor morale plunged in August to its lowest level in more than 1-1/2 years.

Concerns that Europe's largest economy is losing momentum just as the region is barely recovering after the debt crisis have hurt German shares, the euro and the European oil prices as well.

Prices of copper, seen as a barometer of world demand, fell to a six-week low of $6,926.50 per tonne on worries about global growth, and was last down 0.3 percent on the day at $6948.

The euro wallowed at $1.3372, steady on the day and sticking near nine-month low of $1.3333 hit last week.

In oil market, European benchmark Brent crude oil slipped to a fresh 13-month low of $102.39 per barrel.

Appetite for riskier assets have also been undermined by violence in the Middle East, giving a boost to safe-haven assets such as bonds.

U.S. bonds slipped slightly on Tuesday, however, as traders sold some bond holdings in advance of a combined $40 billion in longer-dated supply. The 10-year yield was at 2.454 percent in Asia on Wednesday, not far from a 14-month low of 2.349 percent hit last week.

The Japanese yen, which also tends to rise at times of depressed sentiment because of its wide use as a funding currency, was off last week's high of 101.51 yen per dollar to trade at 102.28 yen, flat from the previous session.

The yen hardly budged after data showed Japan's economy shrank an annualised 6.8 percent from the previous quarter - the biggest contraction in three years, but slightly better than market forecast. (Reuters)

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