Asian shares slip off 9-month high

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By Masayuki Kitano

Singapore - Asian shares slipped on Tuesday after a plunge in US manufacturing activity hit Wall Street stocks and the dollar, while the euro hovered near a six-week high on optimism over Greece's plan to buy back debt.

Declines in Asian stock markets suggested caution setting in after gains in recent weeks, with investors reluctant to chase shares higher amid continued gridlock in the US Congress over proposals to avert the so-called fiscal cliff - $600 billion worth of tax increases and spending cuts that will be automatically triggered in early 2013.

European shares were expected to open lower, US stock index futures eased and riskier assets such as commodities were also hit, with oil, copper and gold all losing ground.

“Oil markets are starting to come off on the weaker-than-expected manufacturing data and the fact that the US economic outlook remains unclear,” said Natalie Rampono, commodity strategist at ANZ in Sydney.

“We are also seeing mixed headlines on the fiscal cliff negotiations, so markets have already taken on a cautious outlook on that account.”

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.2 percent, backing away from a nine-month high reached on Monday.

Australian shares eased 0.6 percent, while Japan's benchmark Nikkei share average fell 0.3 percent.

Financial bookmakers called London's FTSE 100, Frankfurt's DAX and Paris's CAC-40 to open down 0.2-0.3 percent, and S&P 500 futures slipped 0.2 percent.

Global share indexes had risen on Monday after manufacturing surveys showed signs of a recovery, albeit an uneven one, in China's economy and a slower contraction in Europe. But sentiment toward equities soured after data revealed US manufacturing unexpectedly contracted in November to its lowest level in more than three years.

The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said on Monday that its index of national factory activity fell to 49.5 in November, the weakest since July 2009, as companies worried about whether lawmakers in Washington could reach a budget deal in time to avert a fiscal crisis that may lead to a recession.

Heading into next week, even a hint of progress in the fiscal cliff negotiations could spawn a modest rally, said Vishnu Varathan, regional economist in Singapore for Mizuho Corporate Bank.

“Overall the euro zone noises are coming out positive and I don't see any turning around there. The only real deal-breaker, whatever will send the dollar spiking up and risk really off the table, will be if there is a complete breakdown in the Congress negotiations,” he said.

“Right now there is some disappointment here and there, but overall still the consensus is that negotiations will result in some kind of acceptable compromise,” Varathan said. - Reuters


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