Monday, 14 October 2013

Asian shares fall, yen firms as U.S. debt deadline nears

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange August 28, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid Asian shares and U.S. stock index futures fell while the safe-haven yen rose on Monday as a possible U.S. debt default crept closer after weekend talks in Washington failed -- though markets appear still to expect that a last-minute compromise will be reached.
Adding to the gloom, China's export growth unexpectedly fizzled in September, underscoring worries about flagging global demand, and annual consumer inflation quickened to a seven-month high.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.miapj0000pus>, which had hit a three-week high on Friday on hopes a U.S. deal was imminent, eased 0.2 percent, although China's CSI300 index <.csi300> added 0.5 percent. Markets in Japan and Hong Kong are closed on Monday for public holidays.
U.S. stocks (.SPX) had risen strongly on Friday reflecting hopes a deal to raise the $16.7 trillion federal borrowing limit was near. However, politicians remain at loggerheads as the October 17 deadline approaches. U.S. stock index futures shed 0.8 percent in Asian trade.
U.S. equity markets will trade on Monday, although some other markets, such as Treasuries, will close for the Columbus Day holiday. In Asia, U.S. Treasury futures edged up 4-1/2 ticks.
"This is such bad theatre. Congress is likely to take this to the wire. Expect a selloff in stocks on Monday," said Sharon Lee Stark, fixed-income strategist at D.A. Davidson & Co in St. Petersburg, Florida.
"Tuesday, bond traders have to position for a possible default which could cause a selloff in risk assets and rising U.S. rates. A bad scenario from all perspectives just because our government can't get it together!"
Financial bookmakers expected major European indexes (.FTSE) (.GDAXI) (.FCHI) to open down as much as 0.3 percent on Monday.
Failure to break the stalemate before Thursday's deadline would leave the U.S. government unable to pay its bills in the coming weeks, an unthinkable outcome for the global economy and financial markets.
Still, trading has remained relatively calm as many analysts expect Republicans and Democrats to strike a last-minute deal, believing U.S. politicians would want to avoid the dire consequences of a default.
"Most likely, a solution will be found before, or be in the making, by October 17," analysts at Nomura wrote in a client note.
"The tail-risk comes into play if there is no clear framework for a solution by October 17. Entering this tail would see risk jump in terms of funding market stress and risk assets more broadly."
Some financial institutions have reduced the use of Treasury bills as collateral for trades as the deadline gets closer. Hong Kong's securities exchange is applying a bigger discount on U.S. Treasuries used as margin collateral.
The failure of the weekend talks in Washington saw investors seeking safety in the yen and Swiss franc.
The dollar fell 0.3 percent to 98.26 yen after gaining 0.5 percent on Friday, and the euro dipped 0.1 percent to 133.30 yen.
The U.S. currency was down 0.3 percent at 0.9096. The dollar index (.DXY), which tracks the greenback against a basket of major currencies, dipped 0.1 percent.
In commodity markets, gold fell 0.1 percent to about $1,271 an ounce, adding to last week's 2.9 percent decline.
Brent crude inched down 0.1 percent to around $111 a barrel, extending Friday's 0.5 percent decline, as concerns that the U.S. fiscal standoff and slower growth in China would crimp demand.
"China still faces significant external headwinds while a recovery in domestic demand is lifting import growth," HSBC said in a note on the weak export data.
"Beijing should keep its accommodative policy and steer structural reforms to sustain a recovery driven by domestic demand," it added.

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