Asia shares weighed by cautious mood, oil settles
Asian shares struggled to make gains on Tuesday as investors braced for key events later in the week, including the start of the U.S. earnings season and a crucial Brexit summit, while broader concerns about slowing global growth checked sentiment.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was basically flat after brushing its highest since late August last year during the previous session.
Japan’s Nikkei dipped 0.15 percent, while Australian shares and Chinese blue chips held steady. E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 lost 0.15 percent.
Wall Street shares delivered a mixed performance on Monday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing 0.3 percent while the S&P 500 added 0.1 percent. Concerns over slowing U.S. earnings have undermined U.S. equities in recent sessions, though a strong jobs report last week helped to soothe frayed nerves.
The S&P 500, however, moved on its own momentum for its eight straight session of gains and the longest winning streak since October 2017, as rallying crude prices overnight lifted energy shares.
Oil prices rose to their highest since November, driven by fighting in Libya along with ongoing supply cuts pledged by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and U.S. sanctions against Iran and Venezuela.
Broader market sentiment remained subdued as investors’ focus remained on potential flashpoints, including a crucial Brexit summit as well as a meeting on trade between the European Union and China set for later on Tuesday.
“The market is very much in a wait-and-watch mode,” said Nick Twidale, chief operating officer at Rakuten Securities Australia in Sydney.
“It’s looking for the next catalyst that’s hopefully going to take stock markets higher, but it’s also very wary that we’ve had such a great run in stocks and general growth that we might see a real sharp correction,” he said.
Twidale added that any news on the trade front around the Sino-U.S. tariff negotiations and the upcoming summit between the EU and China “could really start to add to some volatility” to markets.
Investors will also focus on a European Central Bank meeting on Wednesday and the start in earnest of the U.S. first-quarter earnings period, with analysts now expecting it to be the first quarter of contracting corporate earnings since 2016.
U.S. March inflation figures and minutes of the Federal Reserve’s last policy meeting are due to be released on Wednesday. Friday’s U.S. jobs report showed strong employment creation but subdued wages growth, backing the Fed’s recent dovish policy tilt.
Yoshinori Shigemi, a Tokyo-based global market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management, said more investors are taking up exposure in commodities and some emerging markets in South America as well as Russia as they look for increased upside outside major developed markets.
“Many people are now saying that negative earnings’ growth for the first quarter, or maybe a little bit more negative number in the second quarter, have already been priced in,” Shigemi said, before adding that a later recovery has also been priced in.
“People are trying to find any other places where they can place their money,” he said.
In the currency market, the euro rose slightly to $1.1265 after booking gains of nearly 0.4 percent – its steepest one-day rise in nearly three-weeks – overnight.
Sterling advanced 0.1 percent to $1.3076, but stayed not far from last month’s low of $1.2945.
Against the Japanese yen, the dollar was down 0.15 percent at 111.33 yen, inching back toward its 1-1/2-month low of 109.70 touched on March 25.
In the commodity market, oil prices hovered near their highest since November 2018 on persistent worries about tightening supplies.
U.S. crude was last up 2 cents at $64.41 a barrel, after brushing its highest since Nov. 1 last year. Brent crude futures dipped 8 cents to $71.02, reversing course after booking a small gain early in the session.
Spot gold was up slightly at $1,298.30 per ounce.