Asia shares, major currencies hesitant before key events

SYDNEY Tue Apr 29, 2014 9:30am IST

A man (L) looks at a stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo April 14, 2014. REUTERS/Issei Kato

A man (L) looks at a stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo April 14, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Issei Kato

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SYDNEY (Reuters) - Asian share markets put in an indecisive performance on Tuesday as caution ahead of some major events this week overshadowed a late rally on Wall Street.

Major currencies held to tight ranges as Tokyo took a holiday, though the euro hung onto gains on the yen and Australian dollar.

The lack of momentum showed in MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan which drifted off by 0.2 percent. Shanghai added 0.2 percent while South Korea fell by a matching amount.

Samsung Electronics stock slipped 1.8 percent after reporting its second straight fall in quarterly profit as weakness in flat-screen panels and the maturing high-end smartphone business weighed on earnings.

Yet the company held out the hope that the football World Cup in Brazil would help boost sales of screens and smartphones as fans invest in fancy gadgets to watch the action.

Events in Ukraine provided an excuse for caution. The United States slapped sanctions on seven Russian government officials and 17 companies linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin in a fresh attempt to force Moscow to back down from its intervention in Ukraine. [TOP/NEWS]

Wall Street put in another erratic performance but mostly ended in the black. The Dow closed 0.53 percent firmer, while the S&P 500 added 0.32 percent. The Nasdaq finished flat amid falls in Amazon and Facebook.

What gains there were owed much to the M&A fever in pharmaceuticals. Pfizer Inc said it approached Britain's AstraZeneca Plc to reignite a potential $100 billion takeover but was rebuffed, stoking speculation of a bidding war.

AstraZeneca shares rallied over 14 percent, while Pfizer rose 4.2 percent to be the biggest gainer in the Dow.

ECB IN NO HURRY

The potential, albeit distant, that Pfizer might need pounds to pay for the bid gave speculators a reason to go long on sterling. The currency climbed to a four-and-a-half year peak on the dollar at $1.6856 before fading to $1.6813.

The euro followed the pound higher to as far as $1.3879, aided in part by a Reuters report playing down the chance of any near-term easing in euro zone monetary policy.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi told lawmakers from Germany's ruling coalition on Monday that low inflation would persist but quantitative easing remains some way off, according to a source who took part in the meeting.

On Tuesday, the euro was holding at $1.3862 and still well within the $1.3783/$1.3905 band that has held for the last couple of weeks.

The dollar has been equally range-bound on the yen, bouncing back and forth between 101.95 and 102.72 for the past seven sessions. It was hovering at 102.48 on Tuesday as investors waited to see if this week's Federal Reserve policy meeting or U.S. jobs data provided the impetus to break the range.

The Bank of Japan holds its policy meeting on Wednesday, while a raft of economic data are due over the next few days including euro zone inflation and GDP from the UK and U.S.

In commodity markets, Brent crude oil added 14 cents to $108.26 a barrel, but that followed a drop over a dollar on Monday when Libya paved the way to restart exports at a second port after a deal with rebels to unblock major terminals.

U.S. crude gained 2 cents to $100.89 a barrel.

Spot gold faded to $1,294.49 an ounce after failing to break resistance around $1,306.00.

(Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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