Asian stocks slip as risk-off sentiment grips markets

Pedestrians are reflected on an electronic stock board at a securities firm in Tokyo, Japan.
Pedestrians are reflected on an electronic stock board at a securities firm in Tokyo, Japan.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

HONG KONG (REUTERS) - Gold and sovereign debt are set to build on solid overnight gains while Asian stocks are likely to slip on Wednesday (June 7) as investors reduce risk before several major political and economic events later this week.

With Britain's election, a European Central Bank (ECB) policy meeting where policymakers may take a less dovish stance, and former FBI director James Comey's Senate testimony all set for Thursday, market participants will be wary of taking big positions.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged 0.2 per cent lower, retreating further from a two-year high hit on Monday. Early Asian markets such as Australia and Japan are pointed lower.

British Prime Minister Theresa May looks on course to increase her parliamentary majority in Thursday's election, an opinion poll showed on Tuesday, shortly after another survey suggested the race with the opposition Labour Party was neck and neck.

Major US stock indexes fell between 0.23 per cent and 033 per cent on Tuesday.

The risk-off undertone pushed government bond prices up and yields lower, while propping up gold and the Japanese yen.

Yields on 10-year US Treasury yields briefly fell to seven-month lows of 2.129 per cent, the lowest since Nov 10, before settling at 2.15 per cent.

In currency markets, the US dollar's weakness against major rivals reverberated across markets as shrinking US bond yields further impeded a greenback already struggling in a climate of heightened political uncertainty.

Reports suggest former Federal Bureau of Investigation director Comey plans to disclose on Thursday conversations in which US President Donald Trump allegedly pressured him to drop his investigation into former national security adviser Mike Flynn, who was fired for failing to disclose conversations with Russian officials.

At its Thursday meeting, the ECB may even discuss dropping some of its pledges to ramp up stimulus if needed, four people with direct knowledge of the discussions told Reuters last week.

The common currency held firm at US$1.127 against the greenback.

Gold remained a firm investor favourite, with the precious metal holding strong around the US$1,294 per ounce line. It has gained nearly 7 per cent in the past month.