Asia shares step back, await China economic update


Asian share markets retreated from highs on Monday as disappointing news on U.S. consumer spending tempered risk sentiment ahead of a closely-watched reading on the health of the Chinese economy.

Also evident were doubts about how much of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s stimulus package will make it through Congress given Republican opposition, and the risk of more mob violence at his inauguration on Wednesday.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan lost 0.3% having hit a string of record peaks in recent weeks. Japan’s Nikkei slipped 1% and away from a 30-year high.

E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 dipped 0.3%, though Wall Street will be closed on Monday for a holiday.

Chinese GDP data are expected to show growth picked up to an annual 6.1% last quarter, from 4.9% in the third quarter. Monthly figures on retail sales and industrial output should show brisk activity as the year ended.

“We expect Q4 Chinese GDP growth accelerated to an above?consensus 6.5% a year because of robust industrial output, the recovery in services and strong exports,” said Joseph Capurso, head of international economics at CBA.

“The data will confirm the Chinese economy ended the year on a strong footing.”

That would be a marked contrast to the U.S. and Europe where the spread of coronavirus has scarred consumer spending, underlined by dismal U.S. retail sales reported on Friday.

“The data bring into question the durability of the recent move higher in bond yields and the rise in inflation compensation,” said analysts at ANZ in a note.

“There’s a lot of good news around vaccines and stimulus priced into equities, but optimism is being challenged by the reality of the tough few months ahead,” they warned. “The risk across Europe is that lockdowns will be extended, and U.S. cases could lift sharply as the UK COVID variant spreads.”

That will put the focus on earnings guidance from corporate results this week, which include BofA, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Netflix.

The poor U.S. data helped Treasuries pare some of their recent steep losses and 10-year yields were trading at 1.087%, down from last week’s top of 1.187%.

The more sober mood in turn boosted the safe-haven U.S. dollar, catching a bearish market deeply short. Speculators increased their net short dollar position to the largest since May 2011 in the week ended Jan. 12.

The dollar index duly rallied to 90.837, and away from its recent 2-1/2 year trough at 89.206.

The euro had retreated to $ 1.2068, from its January peak at $ 1.2349, while the dollar held steady on the yen at 103.93 and well above the recent low at 102.57.

Biden’s pick for Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, is expected to rule out seeking a weaker dollar when testifying on Capital Hill on Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Gold prices were undermined by the bounce in the dollar leaving the metal down at $ 1,812 an ounce, compared to its January top of $ 1,959.

Oil prices ran into profit-taking on worries the spread of increasingly tight lockdowns globally would hurt demand.

Brent crude futures were off 12 cents at $ 54.98 a barrel, while U.S. crude eased 11 cents to $ 52.25.