SINGAPORE: Asian stocks slipped to three-week lows on Tuesday while bonds and the dollar steadied as investors tempered expectations for cuts to U.S. interest rates and waited on U.S. jobs data.
An interest rate decision is due in Australia in the meantime, with traders all but certain the central bank will keep rates steady, leaving the focus on the outlook and tone.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 0.9% in early trading. Gold hung on above $2,000 after a wild session on Monday, when it hit a record high in Asia before recoiling sharply lower.
Japan's Nikkei was dragged 1% lower to a three-week trough, mostly thanks to falling chipmaking stocks.
Treasuries had come under a little pressure overnight as traders calibrated pretty aggressive pricing for U.S. interest rate cuts. Two-year yields rose 9.1 basis points and were steady at 4.64% in Asia trade.
Having been encouraged by a benign inflation report three weeks ago, futures imply about 125 bps of cuts in 2024.
U.S. job openings data is due at 1530 GMT, and broader hiring figures, which had last month showed signs of a slowdown in the job market, will be published on Friday.
"While it's understandable the market has embraced the recent improvement in inflation and softer October labour market data, strong momentum in the economy remains," ANZ analysts said in a note to clients. "We therefore expect that the (Fed), while encouraged by recent inflation improvements, will continue to adopt a hawkish policy stance."
Hong Kong shares led declines around Asia, and the Hang Seng slumped to a fresh one-year low. At 16,470, the index is trading below its pre-Asian financial crisis high and is down almost 17% in a year when global stocks are up 15%.
In currency markets the dollar, which suffered its sharpest monthly decline for a year in November, rose slightly overnight.
The euro sat at $1.0837 on Tuesday, just above support at its 200-day moving average. The Australian and New Zealand dollars retreated from multi-month highs on Monday.
They were last steady, with the Aussie at $0.6612 ahead of the interest rate decision at 0430 GMT. The focus is on whether the central bank will stick with what was interpreted as dovish guidance at its last meeting.
"Even if the RBA holds the line with respect to its guidance, the AUD’s retracement shouldn’t extend too much further with solid support likely to be found around its 200-day moving average (around) $0.6580," said Corpay strategist Peter Dragicevich.
Falling coal and gas prices pushed Australia's current account into deficit in the September quarter, data on Tuesday showed. Core inflation in Tokyo slowed in November, leaving the yen steady at 147.22 per dollar.
In commodity trading, Brent crude futures traded broadly steady at $78.31 a barrel, having fallen overnight on doubts that producers will make further cuts to output.
Chicago wheat hit its highest level since late August after the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed the largest one-off private sale to China in years.