Asian shares waver, gold steadies after "mini flash crash"

Banknotes from various countries including the euro (centre) in Seoul, South Korea.
Banknotes from various countries including the euro (centre) in Seoul, South Korea.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Asian shares got off to a wobbly start on Tuesday, while gold prices steadied after plunging more than 4 per cent to five-year lows on Monday.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan opened flat, and was struggling to gain in early trade.

Japan's Nikkei share index rose 0.5 per cent as markets reopened after a public holiday on Monday.

Spot gold edged up about 0.2 per cent on the day to US$1,099.05 an ounce, after what traders described as a mini flash crash in the previous session.

The rout caused concern on Wall Street and kept US share gains in check, though all three major indexes logged modest rises and the Nasdaq Composite still managed to mark its third straight record close. The S&P 500 ended less than 3 points from its record close on May 21.

"The decline in gold prices is consistent with the drop in the volatility index and the rise in equities that took the Nasdaq to a record high," Kathy Lien, managing director at BK Asset Management said in a note to clients. "It signals to forex traders that there is a sense of calm in the markets," she said.

Part of that calm is due to a more stable situation in Greece, where banks reopened as Athens began the process of paying off billions of euros owed to international creditors after it agreed to a new reform plan in exchange for another bailout to keep it in the euro zone.

The US dollar jumped to its highest since April 23 against a basket of major currencies on Monday, before paring gains and ending flat.

The euro edged up about 0.1 per cent on the day to US$1.0833 , after dipping to its lowest since mid-April overnight.

The dollar was steady against the yen at 124.295 after scaling a 4-1/2-week peak of 124.390 yen on Monday.

Underpinning the greenback, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard told Fox Business Network that there was a better than 50 per cent chance that the US central bank will raise interest rates in September.

In other commodities trading, crude oil futures continued to slip, pressured by the strengthening dollar and concerns about a supply glut.

US August crude, set to expire later on Tuesday, was down about 0.2 per cent in early trade at US$50.07 a barrel. On Monday, it tumbled below US$50 for the first time since April.