SINGAPORE (Reuters): Asian stocks fell on Wednesday and the dollar wavered after uninspiring comments from U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke added to worries about the slowing global economy.
European shares were also expected to fall, extending their losing streak to a sixth straight session, tracking weakness in Asia and on Wall Street. Financial spreadbetters expected Britain’s FTSE 100 and Germany’s DAX to fall as much as 0.5 percent and France’s CAC 40 to open down as much as 0.6 percent.
Bernanke acknowledged an economic slowdown in the United States, but offered no suggestion of further stimulus to support growth, souring sentiment across equity markets and towards the dollar as investors expect U.S. interest rates to remain low for a longer period of time.
The dollar slipped to a one-month low under 80 yen as the Japanese currency was bought back broadly amid heightened risk-aversion reflecting the falls in Asian share prices.
The Nikkei average ended about 0.1 percent higher , with gains in financials helping to temper weakness in other sectors. MSCI’s index of Asia-Pacific stocks outside Japan fell 0.7 percent and looked set for its fifth straight losing session. Consumer discretionary and resources shares continued to see the heaviest selling on fears of cooling demand.
“When you see the weaker U.S. dollar, people do get concerned about the global growth story,” said Justin Gallagher, head of sales trading at RBS Australia in Melbourne. Lorraine Tan, director of Asia equity research at S&P in Singapore, said the markets were in a “major semi-lull”.
“We don’t expect much in the near term without fresh developments,” she said. “There is concern over what’s going to be happening with global growth. Double-dip (recession) worries will come back.”
The euro briefly rose to a one-month high of $1.4696 as the dollar floundered, but later slipped back to $1.4658, off around 0.1 percent.
Fears of a Greek debt default were expected to limit further advances for the single currency.
Greece needs substantial fresh aid from the euro zone to avoid the currency bloc’s first state insolvency, a German newspaper reported on Tuesday, citing German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble.
“We are facing the real risk of the first uncoordinated state insolvency within the euro zone,” die Welt newspaper quoted Schaeuble as writing in a letter to, amongst others, European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet.
The paper said Schaeuble argued for a new bailout of Greece with a “substantial” expansion of European aid and with private creditor involvement
The euro also rose against the yen on Japanese institutional demand.