Asia shares shaky on Fed minutes, oil recovers after slump on Opec export rise

Pedestrians stand in front of a monitor displaying stock markets index in Tokyo.
Pedestrians stand in front of a monitor displaying stock markets index in Tokyo. PHOTO: EPA

SINGAPORE (REUTERS) - Asian shares were tentative on Thursday (July 6) after minutes from the Federal Reserve's last meeting showed a lack of consensus on the future pace of interest rate increases, while oil prices inched higher following the previous day's steep declines.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was little changed early on Thursday.

Japan's Nikkei slipped 0.15 per cent.

South Korea's Kospi was flat, while Australian shares dropped 0.15 per cent.

In Asia, trading over the past few days has been buffeted by tensions in the Korean peninsula after North Korea fired a missile into Japanese waters.

On Wednesday, US crude tumbled by as much as 5.4 per cent, snapping an eight day winning streak, the longest rally in over five years, as rising Opec exports and a stronger US dollar turned sentiment more bearish.

US crude was up 1 per cent at US$45.59 a barrel early on Thursday.

Overnight on Wall Street, the Nasdaq closed up 0.7 per cent as technology shares recovered, the S&P 500 was up 0.15 per cent and the Dow Jones Industrial Average was flat.

Fed policymakers were increasingly split on the outlook for inflation and how it might affect the future pace of interest rate rises, according to the minutes of the central bank's June 13-14 policy meeting released on Wednesday.

Several officials also wanted to announce a start to the process of reducing the Fed's large portfolio of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities by the end of August but others preferred to wait until later in the year.

"The minutes from the June 13-14 FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) meeting underscore that the start of the balance sheet reduction is on course for this year,"  Oxford Economics head of US macro investor services Kathy Bostjancic wrote in a note. "On the interest rate front, we believe rising concerns that the slowdown in the inflation rate could be long-lasting will lead policymakers to forgo additional rate hikes this year and to only raise rates twice (total 50 basis points) in 2018."

US 10-year Treasury yields dipped to 2.3303 per cent, but remained near seven-week highs touched earlier on Wednesday.

The dollar was steady at 113.25 yen early on Thursday. The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of trade-weighted peers, was also little changed at 96.305.

Markets are now awaiting US non-farm payrolls for June, due on Friday, for more insight into Fed policy.

The euro was flat at US$1.13485 early on Thursday.

Gold prices were steady at US$1,226.31 an ounce.