Asian shares tread cautiously, crude oil slips

A businessman walks past a display showing Tokyo's Nikkei stock average and exchange rate between the US dollar and the Japanese yen during the morning trade session in Tokyo, Japan, July 13.
A businessman walks past a display showing Tokyo's Nikkei stock average and exchange rate between the US dollar and the Japanese yen during the morning trade session in Tokyo, Japan, July 13.PHOTO: EPA

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Asian shares edged slightly lower in early Asian trade on Tuesday (July 19), as a downturn in crude oil curbed the enthusiasm from fresh record highs on Wall Street.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan inched down 0.1 per cent, though it was still within sight of a nine-month high touched last week. The Dow Jones industrial average and the S&P 500 both logged fresh record highs.

Japan's Nikkei stock index gained 0.6 per cent, as markets reopened after a Japanese public holiday on Monday and caught up to a weaker yen.

A failed coup in Turkey had dented risk sentiment and bolstered the perceived safe-haven yen before it ran its course. On Monday, Turkey purged its police force after rounding up thousands of soldiers and called for the United States to hand over a cleric that the Turkish government accuses of being behind the takeover attempt.

Improved risk sentiment helped the US dollar climb to three-week highs against the yen. It was last down slightly on the day at 106.13 yen, after rising as high as 106.33 earlier in the session, its highest since June 24.

The euro edged down 0.1 per cent against the dollar to US$1.1069.

The European Central Bank will hold a regular policy meeting on Thursday, its last one before an eight-week summer break. It is not expected to take any additional easing steps.

Instead, ECB President Mario Draghi is likely to appeal to governments to do more to bolster the euro zone economy in the wake of Britain's vote last month to exit the European Union.

"We expect the ECB to steer clear from any policy action," strategists at Rabobank said. "Gauging the Brexit impact will require more time and the September meeting would appear a more logical candidate," they said, adding that questions in the post-meeting news conference are likely to focus on what options the ECB still has to ease or extend its current monetary policy.

The dollar index, which gauges the greenback against a basket of currencies, was slightly higher at 96.571.

Pressure remained on crude oil prices after they settled down more than 1 per cent on Monday after rising stockpiles of crude and refined fuel intensified fears of another major supply glut.

Brent crude was slightly lower in early trading at US$46.95 a barrel, after shedding 1.4 per cent on Monday. US crude was down 0.1 per cent at US$45.20, after dropping 1.6 per cent overnight.

Spot gold was slightly down at US$1,328.50 an ounce, after dropping as much as 1 per cent on Monday.