Asian stocks sag on caution before key China and US data, STI down 1.6%

A man walks in front of the Singapore Exchange building at the financial district in Singapore on Aug 25, 2015.
A man walks in front of the Singapore Exchange building at the financial district in Singapore on Aug 25, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Asian stocks sagged on Monday (Sept 28) after Wall Street's uninspiring Friday performance and ahead of key economic indicators, while the US dollar consolidated its gains against the yen and euro.

Tokyo's Nikkei lost 1.1 per cent on caution ahead of coming announcements including Tuesday's Japan industrial production, Thursday's China Caixin Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) and US non-farm payrolls on Friday.

The Straits Times Index was down 1.56 per cent at 2,788.53 as of 11.50am.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan stood virtually flat. Shanghai shares fell 0.3 per cent. Financial markets in South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan were closed on Monday for public holidays.

"Investors would not take large positions until they digest the outcomes of these key data, so directionless trading is expected this week and volume is likely to be thin," said Takuya Takahashi, a strategist at Daiwa Securities in Tokyo. "If these data are better than expected, the market will likely start recovering next week."

On Friday, the S&P 500 erased an early Federal Reserve-driven rally and closed slightly lower amid a selloff in biotech shares, and the Nasdaq lost 1 per cent. The Dow , however, managed to rise 0.7 per cent.

Fed chair Janet Yellen on Thursday revived prospects of an interest rate hike before year-end, easing concerns about slowing global growth that helped the dollar and risk assets, which have been buffeted by fears over China's sputtering economy.

Strong second quarter US GDP data released on Friday further sharpened the case for the Fed to raise rates in 2015.

Focus now turns to this Friday's US non-farm payrolls as the markets try to gauge whether labour market conditions are strong enough for the Fed to tighten monetary policy.

The US dollar was little changed at 120.48 yen after edging up to a two-week high of 121.24 on Friday as US Treasury yields rose on the strong US GDP numbers and expectations of a Fed hike in 2015.

The euro was also steady, at US$1.1187 after shedding 0.3 per cent overnight.

"In terms of price action, we uphold our view of further dollar outperformance versus the emerging market currencies as risk premia remains elevated on China growth, outflows, and policy opacity concerns," wrote strategists at Barclays. "Compared with developed countries, we expect the dollar to appreciate particularly vis-a-vis the euro, as we think the European Central Bank will have to ease monetary conditions at some point before year-end in order to meet its inflation target."

In commodities, the lacklustre mood in equity markets spilled over and US crude oil futures lost 0.6 per cent to US$45.42 a barrel while Brent crude lost 0.9 per cent to US$48.15 a barrel.