SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Shares slipped on Tuesday, led by losses in Hong Kong and Shanghai on underwhelming corporate earnings, while the euro held near its highest level in a week on easing fears about wider damage to the financial system from Greece’s debt crisis.
Commodities were broadly weaker, with base and precious metals both edging down, while crude oil eased more than half a percent on an improved supply outlook as Libyan exports are returning to pre-war levels faster than expected.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.5 percent. Tokyo markets were closed for a holiday.
Financial spreadbetters predicted major European markets would open down 0.1-0.2 percent, while U.S. stock futures also dipped 0.1 percent.
“Momentum is clearly stalling right now and in need of distinct signals, whether it be U.S. housing data pointing to a stable recovery or stronger indications of policy easing in China,” said Kim Se-joong, an analyst at Shinyoung Securities in Seoul.
Equity losses in Asia were led by China, with Shanghai stocks shedding 1 percent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index down 0.4 percent as a lacklustre reporting season so far prompted investors to take money off the table.
Nearly half of Chinese companies having reported 2011 earnings, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine data, and so far close to 70 percent have missed expectations.
“There are no fresh positive catalysts, we are in a downward spiral today. I‘m just trying to cut my losses,” said Alex Wong, Ample Finance’s director of asset management In Hong Kong.
U.S. stocks had risen on Monday, as investors cheered Apple Inc’s (AAPL.O) announcement of a $10 billion annual dividend and share buy-back, lifting the S&P 500 to within 10 percent of its all-time closing high.
A steady stream of data pointing to a recovery in the U.S. economy and massive liquidity injections from major central banks have combined to drive a rally in share markets since late last year. The S&P 500 has risen nearly 12 percent in 2012 and the MSCI Asia ex-Japan is up more than 13 percent.
That, in turn, has stemmed the flow of money seeking safety in assets such as U.S. Treasuries, pushing yields on 10-year notes up to around 2.38 percent, the highest in nearly five months.
A generally improved appetite for riskier assets has also driven a rally in credit markets in recent days, with spreads on the iTraxx Asia ex-Japan investment-grade index tightening a further 3 basis points on Tuesday.
The dollar edged up 0.1 percent against a basket of major peers, while the euro held steady around $1.3230, after rising as high as $1.32659 on Monday.
“It’s probably going to be a consolidation week for the U.S. dollar,” said Mitul Kotecha, head of global foreign exchange strategy for Credit Agricole in Hong Kong.
Investors began to scale back bearish bets against the euro on Monday and focused on a Greek credit default swap auction that set the payout for holders of default insurance totalling about 3.2 billion euros. The auction fixed a fair value price of 21.5 cents on the euro for Greek bonds, within expectations.
That meant an owner of Greek CDS would be paid 78.5 cents on the euro, which analysts said was enough to compensate for the roughly 75 percent loss investors incurred on the country’s debt restructuring.
The European Central Bank’s (ECB) announcement that it put its bond-buying programme on hold last week also encouraged traders to cover bets against the single currency.
“The market took the news as a sign that bond markets in the euro zone have been recovering on their own, even without such ECB support,” said a trader at a big Japanese bank in Singapore.
The Australian dollar slipped 0.3 percent to $1.0578 after global miner BHP Billiton (BHP.AX) (BLT.L) said it saw signs that growth in iron ore demand was flattening in China, Australia’s single biggest export market.
Oil continued a decline that began on Monday on news that top exporter Saudi Arabia increased shipments in January and that Libyan production next month would return to levels seen before the civil war that ousted Muammar Gaddafi.
Brent crude and U.S. crude both fell about 70 cents to around $125 and $107.40 a barrel respectively.
Copper slipped 0.5 percent to $8,531 a tonne and gold also weakened, losing 0.4 percent to around $1,655 an ounce.
“Investors are looking at other investment options, as they are less concerned about economic growth and more wanting to hop on the equity rally, which clearly works against some of the reasons why people buy gold,” said Jeremy Friesen, commodity strategist at Societe Generale in Hong Kong.
Additional reporting by Joonhee Yu in Seoul, Masayuki Kitano and Rujun Shen in Singapore and Clement Tan in Hong Kong; Editing by Richard Borsuk