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Shares, currencies tentative as attention shifts to U.S. election, stimulus

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Asian shares held to tight ranges on Monday, as did currencies, as investors awaited developments on U.S. fiscal stimulus and coronavirus vaccines amid a resurgence of infections in Europe.

FILE PHOTO: Passersby wearing protective face masks following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are reflected on a screen displaying stock prices outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, March 17, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS was a shade weaker, though it was not too far from a June 2018 peak at 568.84.

Australian .AXJO and New Zealand .NZ50 shares both opened in the red while South Korea's KOSPI .KS11 was 0.1% up.

U.S. stock futures, the S&P 500 e-minis ESc1, were down 0.16%.

Japanese markets were closed for a public holiday.

“Attention is turning back to negotiations on supplementary fiscal stimulus and the forthcoming U.S. election,” ANZ analysts wrote in a note.

Coronavirus cases have now surpassed 30 million, casting a gloomy pall over prospects of a V-shaped economic recovery.

The biggest threat to global growth is a resurgent pandemic, with analysts fearing growth and inflation could surprise on the downside in the coming year. A lack of material development on U.S. stimulus package is also an overhang, they said.

Adding to worries, European countries from Denmark to Greece announced new restrictions on Friday to curb surging coronavirus infections in some of their largest cities, while Britain was reported to be considering a new national lockdown.

“Where is the inspiration for the equity bulls, I ask? We have diminishing prospects of fiscal stimulus, crazy valuations and a firm focus on an ugly U.S. election and COVID shutdowns, which suggest short-term risks for equities,” said Pepperstone strategist Chris Weston.

“Of course, the lack of early movement may be a red herring as the news, perhaps the Oracle/TikTok deal aside, can hardly be perceived as positive, but there has been no risk aversion expressed in FX, through this illiquid period.”

In currencies, the dollar held near a more than 3-1/2 month trough against the safe-haven yen at 104.52 JPY=.

The euro EUR= was up 0.1% on the day at $1.1845 and has lost 0.76% in a month, while the risk sensitive Australian dollar AUD=D3 was flat at $0.7289.

The British pound GBP= was up 0.1% at $1.2930.

That left dollar index =USD, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major rivals, barely changed at 92.956.

Currency strategists said dollar weakness may signal more volatility ahead of the Nov. 3 U.S. elections where Republican President Donald Trump will face off against Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

Pepperstone’s Weston expects the safe haven yen to remain well bid.

“In a world where real rate differentials increasingly drive capital flows, in developed market, FX Japan has the highest and positive real yields, and even more so when adjusting for hedging costs,” Weston said.

“This makes the JPY very attractive, especially against the GBP and USD, where real rates are not just negative but in the case of the Fed, they are actively seeking lower rates out.”

In commodities, U.S. crude CLc1 slipped 0.46% to $40.92 a barrel. Brent crude LCOc1 fell to $42.99 per barrel. Gold was slightly lower, with spot prices XAU= at $1,949.6 per ounce. [GOL/]

(This story corrects reference to Nikkei move as Japanese markets are closed on Monday)

Editing by Sam Holmes

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