Asia shares fall for seventh session on global growth anxiety

A pedestrian looks at a quotation board flashing the Nikkei key index from the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo on April 28, 2016.
A pedestrian looks at a quotation board flashing the Nikkei key index from the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo on April 28, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - Asian shares slipped for a seventh straight session on Thursday (May 5) as a mixed batch of US economic data did nothing to assuage concerns about global growth and deflation, keeping sovereign bonds well supported.

Activity was sparse with Japan still on holiday and many investors taking cover ahead of the US jobs report on Friday.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan eased 0.1 per cent, to be down 5 per cent over the past two weeks.

"I think what has taken place more than anything else over the past 48 hours is the questioning of the reflation trade that was starting to be latched on by many, especially when you consider the recent price action in the USD, commodities and equities," CitiFX analysts said in a note. "If that reflation trade notion is in fact dying, the unwind of the past few weeks of price action would potentially be the more significant reaction in markets."

One shift already under way was a revival in demand for sovereign bonds, a favoured hedge against deflation.

Yields on 10-year US Treasury notes were at their lowest in two weeks at 1.777 per cent, a notable rally from last week's top of 1.94 per cent.

The equivalent yield in Australia has plunged no less than 31 basis points in the past week as record-low core inflation forced the central bank to cut its cash rate to an all-time low.

The rush to bonds has left equities out in the cold. The Dow ended Wednesday down 0.56 per cent, while the S&P 500 eased 0.59 per cent and the Nasdaq 0.79 per cent.

The pan-regional FTSEurofirst 300 index fell 1.2 per cent to its lowest close in nearly four weeks.

Wall Street slipped even as data showed the vast US services sector expanded in April as new orders and employment accelerated, offering hope economic growth would rebound after a sluggish first quarter.

Yet other figures showed private employers hired the fewest workers in three years, sparking concerns the all-important payrolls report might also disappoint.

Friday's jobs figures are forecast to show a solid gain of 202,000 in April with unemployment steady at 5 per cent.

A weak outcome could push back the timing of the Federal Reserve's next hike in rates and put fresh pressure on the US dollar. The US currency has steadied in the last couple of days having taken a beating against the yen and euro.

The dollar was holding at 107.14 yen early Thursday, above the recent 18-month trough of 105.55 but a long way from last week's peak of 111.88.

The euro changed hands at US$1.1487, having been as high as US$1.1614 this week from a low of US$1.1213 in April. Against a basket of currencies the dollar was all but flat at 93.231.

In commodity markets, industrial metals such as copper and iron ore were nursing losses, though oil bounced in early Asian trade.

Traders said the gains could be linked to an uncontrolled wildfire near Canada's oil sands region that was reducing production.

Brent crude was quoted 73 cents higher at US$45.31 a barrel, while US crude added 75 cents to US$44.53.