- Irish, eurozone debt concerns persist, China rates a worry
- Asian stocks excluding Japan hit two-week lows
- European stocks follow Asia lower in early trade
- Dollar underpinned by spike in Treasury yields
SYDNEY (Reuters) - Stocks in Asia and Europe fell on Monday on fears that Ireland may be forced to seek a financial rescue package, while a jump in U.S. Treasury yields helped drive the dollar higher.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index of leading European shares shed 0.6 percent in early trade, following most Asian equity markets lower, as worries about eurozone debt problems intensifed.
Irish officials have not ruled out the possibility it may have to turn to Europe for help in dealing with its debt crisis, but said no application had been made for assistance yet.
The Irish Independent reported on Monday that Ireland was considering asking for money for its banks from the European Union’s emergency fund in a bid to fend off the threat of a bailout for the state.
Investors also dumped U.S. Treasuries on renewed criticism of the Federal Reserve’s latest stimulus programme, sending the five-year Treasury note yield up about 10 basis points to two-month highs at 1.48 percent.
Richmond Federal Reserve President Jeffrey Lacker indicated he opposed the central bank’s new round of monetary easing, saying he believed the policy was potentially dangerous and likely ineffective.
“That looks to be the initial catalyst that sparked the selloff (in Treasuries), and then it ran into quite a few stops and became momentum and flow driven,” said Sue Trinh, currency strategist at RBC in Hong Kong.
Persistent concerns that Bejing will raise interest rates further also spurred selling of riskier assets as traders worried policy tightening will curb China’s robust demand for commodities and other imports.
Reversing earlier gains, the MSCI index of Asia Pacific stocks outside Japan fell 0.7 percent to lows not seen since Nov. 1. On Friday, the index slid 1.9 percent to post its biggest one-day percentage fall since late June on worries that China may have to hike rates more aggressively to contain a jump in inflation.
Markets drew no comfort from the G20 and APEC meetings, which left leaders of the world’s most powerful economies little closer to agreeing on how to prevent fresh crises.
For a description of the EU safety net: Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 0.1 percent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index shed 0.8 percent while a volatile Shanghai Composite Index rose 1 percent, after last Friday’s 5.2 percent slide. Japan’s Nikkei average bucked the downdraft, however, ending 1.1 percent higher as exporters such as Canon Inc benefited from a weaker yen and as data showing Japan’s economic growth accelerated in the third quarter spurred investors to buy on dips.
U.S. YIELDS CLIMB
The dollar reversed losses against a basket of major currencies as U.S. Treasury yields rose across the curve.
RBC’s Trinh said the rise in yields prompted dollar short covering, helping the dollar rise 0.3 percent against a basket of currencies.
This saw the dollar climb to five-week highs against the Japanese currency near 83 yen and the euro slip back below $1.3700. Commodity currencies such as the Australian dollar erased earlier gains.
“There’s speculation that the Fed may have to scale back its asset purchase,” said a trader at a Japanese bank. Further hurt by renewed pressure on commodity prices, the Aussie dollar retreated to $0.9833 from a session high around $0.9900. It has fallen some 3.5 percent from a 28-year high around $1.0182 set last week.
On the London Metal Exchange (LME), benchmark copper lost 1 percent to $8,530 a tonne, extending Friday’s 3 percent slide. Gold was little changed at $1,366 an ounce, but off a one-week low of $1,359.70 seen on Friday.
U.S. crude oil was flat at $85 a barrel, down about 4 percent from a 25-month high of $88.63 hit last Thursday.
India’s current a/c gap may widen to a record - Goldman
MUMBAI (Reuters) - India’s current account deficit is being increasingly funded by short-term capital inflows rather than more durable foreign direct investment (FDI), posing a risk to external balance and funding of gap, Goldman Sachs said.
“While we remain constructive on India’s medium-term growth outlook, the deterioration in external balances represents the biggest risk, in our view, to the Indian growth story, and one that investors should follow very closely,” Goldman Sachs wrote in a note on Tuesday.
Goldman estimates the current account deficit to widen to 4 percent of GDP in the current fiscal year, from 2.9 percent in the previous year, and further to 4.3 percent in 2011/12, its highest-ever level.
“Nearly 80 percent of the capital inflows are non-FDI related. Given the excess spare capacity globally, FDI may remain weak going forward,” the note said.
Rising imports due to strong domestic demand and concerns that exports growth may be slow could add to the widening current account gap problem, it said.
India’s current account deficit widened sharply to $13.7 billion in the June-quarter, which was around 3.7 percent of GDP. The deficit was $4.5 billion in the same period year ago.
India’s Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said last month that the government expects the current account deficit for 2010/11 to be above 3 percent and the economy can manage a deficit of 3.0-3.5 percent of GDP.
Goldman, however, said India’s foreign exchange reserves were adequate to counter temporary reversals of capital.
“Yet, the increased reliance on external capital to fund ever-wider current account deficits has increased vulnerability significantly more than before the 2008 crisis,” Goldman said.
A reversal of capital inflows, in case of an extended period of risk aversion could lead to a sharp sell-off in currency, bonds, equities and cause a liquidity crunch resulting in a sharp decline in output.