Asian Shares Up, Cautious Before Fed, US Data

by
Reuters
Asian shares rose on Tuesday after solid U.S. data, but investors remained cautious ahead of more U.S. economic reports and a Federal Reserve policy decision later in the week that may offer clues to the Fed's stimulus plans.

* MSCI Asia ex-Japan up 0.3 pct, Nikkei opens down 0.7 pct

* Yen takes breather from selling

Asian shares rose on Tuesday after solid U.S. data, but investors remained cautious ahead of more U.S. economic reports and a Federal Reserve policy decision later in the week that may offer clues to the Fed's stimulus plans.

The MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.3 percent.

Australian shares rallied 0.8 percent to a fresh 21-month high led by shares in the financials sectors as the U.S. S&P 500 index closed above 1,500 for the first time since 2007. Australian markets were closed on Monday for a holiday.

South Korean shares opened up 0.3 percent after touching an 8-week low the day before.

The benchmark Standard & Poor's 500 Index eased slightly on Monday after an eight-day winning run but held above 1,500, after closing above it on Friday for the first time in more than five years.

Risk appetite has been improving overall with U.S. earnings generally solid. A rise in a gauge of planned U.S. business spending in December added to a recent run of positive global economic data, and signs of easing financial stress in the euro zone. Euro zone blue chips touched fresh 18-month peaks on Monday.

More solid U.S. growth indicators would, however, fuel speculation the Fed may mull pulling back on aggressive easing stimulus. The Fed ends a two-day policy meeting on Wednesday. The first estimate of U.S. fourth-quarter gross domestic product will be released on Wednesday, followed by non-farm payrolls on Friday.

"Ahead of key events, markets are likely to stay in ranges. But with yields on U.S. Treasury and German government bonds inching higher, one might say investors may be shifting funds to riskier assets from safe-havens," said Yuji Saito, director of foreign exchange at Credit Agricole in Tokyo.

"That's part of the reason why the euro has stayed firm," he said. Saito said while a rise in U.S. yields underpins the dollar against the yen, they were likely to be capped with end-month selling from exporters and options lined up between 90.50 and 91.50 yen.

The benchmark U.S. 10-year note briefly pierced 2 percent on Monday for the first time since last April.

Japan's Nikkei stock average opened down 0.7 percent after striking a fresh 32-month high above 11,000 on Monday.

The dollar fell 0.3 percent to 90.53 yen after touching 91.32 on Monday, its highest level since June 2010, while the euro also eased 0.3 percent to 121.75 yen from Monday's high of 122.91, its highest point since April.

U.S. crude inched up 0.1 percent to $96.54 a barrel.