Asian Markets Tread Water, China Opens Weak, Investors Watch Greek Standoff
HONG KONG: Asian shares lost early steadiness and Chinese stocks got off to a weak start on Thursday, while upbeat U.S. economic data helped the dollar gain as investors globally opted for caution due to Greece's standoff with its creditors
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 0.13 percent following yet another weak opening in China's benchmark indexes. Tokyo's Nikkei climbed 1.1 percent thanks to a weaker yen, while South Korea's Kospi rose 0.3 percent.
Investors expected investors appetite for risk to be sapped in coming months by uncertainty over whether Greece can step back from an economic abyss after its debt default to the International Monetary Fund, and doubts over its future in the eurozone.
"We are shaping up for a bumpy ride in the summer as the ongoing Greek crisis means investors are adopting a risk-on, risk-off approach towards risky assets," said Tai Hui, chief markets strategist at JP Morgan Asset Management in Hong Kong.
Chinese markets got off to a rocky start with the Shanghai index down more than 1 percent in opening trades after a near 5 percent slide yesterday, despite regulators announcing a raft of market friendly measures since last week, including an interest rate cut over the weekend.
Investors elsewhere fixed their eyes on Athens. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has called a referendum on Sunday that could detemine his country's future in Europe. On Wednesday, Tsipras urged Greeks to reject an international bailout deal, souring hopes of any breakthrough.
While U.S. stocks ended up overnight, but U.S. stocks had trimmed intraday gains as Athens refused to soften its stance on bailout terms with its creditors.
"July 5th (day of Greek referendum) is the next key date for the euro and after that July 20th, when Greece owes the European Central Bank 3.5 billion euros," Kathy Lien, managing director of FX Strategy for BK Asset Management, wrote.
"If this payment is missed, the ECB will most likely pull the plug on liquidity to Greek banks, which would have a more dramatic impact than the latest default, leading to increased uncertainty for Greece, the euro and the financial markets as a whole."
The euro came under pressure once more as hopes of a resolution retreated overnight.
The common currency's fall was exacerbated by strong U.S. data, which pushed Treasury yields higher and underpinned the dollar.
The ADP National Employment report on Wednesday showed 237,000 private-sector U.S. jobs were created in June, handily exceeding the median expectation among economists surveyed by Reuters for a gain of 218,000. Construction spending in May was equally strong, hitting the highest level since October 2008.
Investors are now awaiting another batch of U.S. data from durable goods to nonfarm payrolls ahead of a holiday on Friday, in observance of the July 4 Independence Day.
The euro was down 0.1 percent at $1.1048 after losing 0.9 percent on Wednesday. The euro has lost about 1.1 percent so far this week.
The dollar was also up against the yen, gaining 0.2 percent to 123.44 and hovering near a one-week high.
In commodities, U.S. crude steadied somewhat after shedding 4 percent overnight on data showing stockpiles in the United States rose for the first time in more than two months.
U.S. crude was little changed at $57.04 a barrel.