Asian stocks steady, set for losing week on growth concerns
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Asian stocks and the euro steadied on Friday, but were on course for a losing week as worries about weak corporate earnings and slowing global economic growth limit the appeal of riskier assets.
A rally that had pushed global equities up around 15 percent from the lows of early June stalled this week. Investors were treading carefully with the third quarter reporting season under way and eyes on how J.P. Morgan (JPM.N) fares when it posts its results later on Friday in the United States.
"Then we'll have more earnings next week, and the expectations are not high," said Kenichi Hirano, operating officer at Tachibana Securities in Tokyo. "If results are disappointing, stocks will sell off, so that makes it difficult to buy now."
Commodities - with the exception of oil - were also mostly set to end the week in the red as investors fretted about the slowdown in key consumer China, which is due to release its latest trade data at the weekend.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.2 percent, while Japan's Nikkei was flat after closing at its lowest in two months on Thursday.
The MSCI Asia ex-Japan index is down 1 percent on the week, while the Nikkei has shed around 3.5 percent.
Wall Street stocks ended flat on Thursday, after gains made on data showing the number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits fell to the lowest in more than four-and-a-half years were erased in part by a drop in Apple shares (AAPL.O) after a U.S. court overturned a sales ban on Samsung Electronics' smartphones in their patent battle.
S&P 500 index futures traded in Asia were up 0.2 percent, suggesting modest gains when U.S. trading resumes.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF), which is holding its semi-annual meeting in Tokyo, underlined concerns about the health of the world economy this week when it cut its global growth forecast for the second time since April.
Those fears have reduced investors' enthusiasm for riskier assets and lifted the safe-haven dollar and government debt. The dollar was flat against a basket of major currencies on Friday, leaving it on course for a 0.6 percent gain on the week.
The yield on 10-year U.S. Treasuries was steady around 1.679 percent, close to its lowest level this week.
The euro steadied after IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said she favoured giving debt-burdened Greece and Spain more time to reduce their budget deficits because cutting too far and too fast would do more harm than good.
Lagarde's comments were seen supporting stability in the euro zone, where Spain is widely expected to become the first of the "big four" economies to seek an international bailout.
"Everyone is still waiting on Spain to request aid and for the ECB to eventually start buying bonds," said Gareth Berry, G10 FX strategist for UBS in Singapore. "Until that really happens it's hard to see (currencies) break decisively out of current ranges."
The euro was flat around $1.2925 on Friday after three days of declines that have left it down around 0.8 percent on the week.
Copper had bounced off two-week lows on Thursday and iron ore prices rose to an 11-week high, moves that boosted mining stocks in Asia on Friday.
But the rally was shortlived, with copper falling around 0.5 percent on Friday to just below $8,200 a tonne, on course for a loss of more than 1 percent on the week. Gold was flat near $1,770 an ounce.
Tensions between Turkey and Syria continued to support oil, with Brent crude holding above $115 a barrel, set for its biggest weekly gain in two months, while U.S. crude firmed above $92.
"Crude is responding positively to the U.S. economic data and ongoing tensions in the Middle East are adding to supply concerns," said Tim Waterer, a senior trader at CMC Global Markets in Sydney.
(Additional reporting by Dominic Lau, Lisa Twaronite and Chikako Mogi in Tokyo and Florence Tan in Singapore; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)
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