Asia stocks slip before US jobs report, euro languishes at 11-year low before ECB meet

Pedestrians walking past an electronic stock board outside a securities firm in Tokyo on Feb 19, 2015. -- PHOTO: BLOOMBERG
Pedestrians walking past an electronic stock board outside a securities firm in Tokyo on Feb 19, 2015. -- PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

TOKYO (Reuters) - Asian stocks slipped on Thursday after Wall Street continued to pull back from record highs ahead of Friday's closely watched US jobs data, while the nervous euro languished at an 11-year low prior to the European Central Bank's policy meeting.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan shed 0.2 per cent. Japan's Nikkei lost 0.2 per cent and South Korean and Australian shares also posted modest losses.

Before slipping on Tuesday for the second successive session, both the Dow and S&P hit record highs on Monday, when the Nasdaq reached a 15-year peak.

Risk asset markets, shored up by liquidity provided by easing-minded central banks around the world, will have a chance to confirm the easing stance of the European Central Bank when it holds a policy meeting later in the session.

The ECB, which starts its quantitative easing (QE), or bond-buying, programme of more than one trillion euros this month, is expected to detail the plan after the meeting.

Edgy before the ECB's announcement on details of its QE scheme, the euro fell as far as US$1.1061, a low not seen since September 2003.

"This (ECB's one trillion euro programme) would not be so euro negative if the Federal Reserve were doing the same thing but not only did the US central bank end its QE last October but they are (also) looking to take the next step and raise interest rates," said Ms Kathy Lien, managing director for forex strategy atBK Asset Management.

"It is the reminder of this divergence that has driven EUR/USD to fresh 11-year lows."

The euro's weakness helped the dollar index rise to a new 11-year high of 96.059.

Often waxing and waning, expectations that the Fed would raise rates as early as summer have fuelled the dollar's recent rally.

The global markets will look to Friday's US jobs data for further confirmation that the world's largest economy is recovering enough to justify a rate hike.

Economists polled by Reuters projected US payrolls grew 240,000 in February, following growth of 257,000 in January.

The dollar stood little changed at 119.65 yen and still some distance from a three-week peak of 120.27 struck earlier in the week thanks to a spike in US Treasury yields.

In commodities, US crude oil added to overnight gains, rising 0.3 per cent to US$51.66 a barrel. OPEC member Iran stressing that it opposed a timeline for a freeze on nuclear activities buoyed the crude market on Wednesday.