Asian Shares Slide as Investors Ponder Stimulus Outlook

A man watches an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm in Tokyo, Friday, May 6, 2016. Asian markets were mostly lower in nervous trading Friday ahead of a closely watched U.S. jobs-report that may influence interest rate decisions and the value of the U.S. dollar. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
A man watches an electronic stock board showing Japan’s Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Asian shares snapped a five-day winning streak on Tuesday as nervous investors took some profits despite hopes of increased central bank stimulus to offset a likely downturn triggered by Brexit.

European markets were also set for a lower start, with financial spreadbetter CMC Markets expecting Britain’s FTSE 100 to open flat, and Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC 40 to start the day 0.3 percent lower.

Trade was thin in Asia, as financial and commodities markets in the United States were closed on Monday for Independence Day. S&P futures were down 0.2 percent on Tuesday, suggesting a softer open when Wall Street reopens later in the day.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.8 percent, but was still within reach of its June 9 peak, having risen 5.6 percent from its low after the Brexit vote on June 23.

Japan’s Nikkei ended the day down 0.7 percent.

In China, the Shanghai Composite rose 0.6 percent after a private business survey showed growth in the services sector that jumped to an 11-month high. But Hong Kong’s Hang Seng retreated 0.6 percent.

Australian shares and its currency were little changed after the central bank held interest rates at a record-low 1.75 percent on Tuesday, as expected.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 1.1 percent, while the Australian dollar slightly extended losses to trade 0.3 percent lower at $0.7516. On Monday, the currency shrugged off political uncertainty caused by Australia’s undecided general election to rise to $0.7545, its highest level since June 24, helped by an advance in commodities.

In Europe, the FTSEurofirst 300 index fell 0.6 percent, snapping a four-day winning streak, led by a 1.6 percent decline in bank shares.

Shares in Italian banks, saddled with a mountain of bad loans, dropped 3.7 percent after Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s spokesman said the country had no plans to pump public money into its banks, a move that could be seen as defying EU rules.

Britain’s vote to leave the European Union has ramped up the urgency for some Asian central banks to ease monetary policy, as a prolonged period of uncertainty threatens a wider downshift in trade and investment.

Many investors expect the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan to expand their monetary easing. Base metal prices were also bolstered by talk of stimulus in China.

The euro slid 0.2 percent to $1.1130, but retained most of the gains made since its 3½-month low of $1.0912 hit in the wake of the UK referendum.

The Bank of England has indicated it could provide stimulus measures to support the economy in coming months. That kept the pound close to its 31-year trough hit in the wake of the Brexit decision. Sterling dropped 0.3 percent to $1.3253, just 1 percent above its June 27 low of $1.3122.

The yen strengthened 0.4 percent to 102.16 to the dollar.

But some fear such stimulus may not be sufficient. Much of Asia’s current malaise has been due to external factors such as a prolonged slump in global demand for its exports, leaving authorities with the task of how to shore up domestic demand.

“The question is, will monetary easing make any real difference to growth?” Frederic Neumann, cohead of Asian economics research at HSBC, wrote in a note.

“Central bankers may certainly do whatever they can, but the heavy lifting should fall on the shoulders of fiscal authorities.”

Oil prices retreated as analysts predicted demand will weaken amid concerns about the global economic outlook.

Brent crude slipped 1.2 percent to $49.52 a barrel, after gaining 6.2 percent over the week through Monday.

U.S. crude tumbled 1.7 percent to $48.15, eating into the 5.7 percent advance made over the prior week.

Overnight the price of precious and base metals hit multi-month highs before giving up gains as traders bet on more stimulus.

“Various commodities are rising even though there is no clear sign of sudden improvement in demand in each market,” said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management. “Their rally seems to be driven by hopes of stimulus.”

Silver relinquished some of its gains from the past few sessions that had sent it to a two-year high of $21.107 an ounce on Monday. The metal, which rose 14.6 percent over the week ended Monday, fell 1.7 percent to $19.9610.

Gold also closed at a two-year high of $1,357.40 per ounce on Monday and last stood at $1,341.93.

The price of copper and aluminium hit two-month highs on Monday while lead hit a four-month peak.