Asian shares open lower amid concern over Greece and valuations

SINGAPORE (Bloomberg) - Asian stocks fell for the first time in three days, after a decline in U.S. equities, as investors watched developments in Greece's bailout talks and consumer shares retreated.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index slid 0.1 per cent to 151.63 as of 9:03 a.m. in Tokyo. The gauge advanced 0.9 per cent in the past two days as China cut interest rates for the third time in six months and investors bet a rebound in U.S. employment wouldn't lead to early interest-rate increases. The rally boosted valuations on the Asian benchmark index to 14.4 times estimated earnings on Monday, compared with 17.8 for the Standard & Poor's 500 Index. The U.S. equity measure slid 0.5 per cent Monday in New York.

"Markets are increasingly nervous given where valuations are," said Matthew Sherwood, Sydney based head of investment strategy at Perpetual Ltd., which manages about US$21 billion. "Greece is going to be one of the markets' key focuses this week. It has the potential to drag market sentiment."

Greece handed the European Central Bank an excuse to maintain the life support for its financial system by persuading skeptical German-led creditors it's serious about delivering the policies needed to escape a default.

Pressure on the two sides had intensified with the ECB due to reassess the emergency liquidity lines keeping the Greek banking system in business on Wednesday. Although some central bankers are pushing for stricter terms, it's now unlikely that policy makers will decide to restrict funding this week, according to two European officials.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index slipped 12.68 points, or 0.06 perc ent, to 19,608.23 at the start. South Korea's Kospi index gained 0.2 per cent. New Zealand's NZX 50 Index increased 0.1 per cent. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 0.2 per cent. Markets in China and Hong Kong have yet to open.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.