Asia shares pare losses as China GDP pips forecasts

Nikkei off 0.8%, trade thinned by U.S. holiday

  
A man wearing a face mask is seen inside the Shanghai Stock Exchange building, as the country is hit by a novel coronavirus outbreak, at the Pudong financial district in Shanghai, China February 28, 2020.

A man wearing a face mask is seen inside the Shanghai Stock Exchange building, as the country is hit by a novel coronavirus outbreak, at the Pudong financial district in Shanghai, China February 28, 2020.

REUTERS/Aly Song

SYDNEY: Asian share markets pared early losses on Monday as data confirmed China's economy had bounced back last quarter as factory output jumped, helping offset recent disappointing news on U.S. consumer spending.

Chinese blue chips edged up 0.4% after the economy was reported to have grown 6.5% in the fourth quarter, on a year earlier, topping forecasts of 6.1%. 

Industrial production for December also beat estimates, though retail sales missed the mark. 

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan trimmed losses and were off 0.2%, having hit a string of record peaks in recent weeks. Japan's Nikkei slipped 0.8% and away from a 30-year high.

E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 dipped 0.3%, though Wall Street will be closed on Monday for a holiday. EUROSTOXX 50 futures STXEc1 eased 0.2% and FTSE futures 0.1%.

The pick-up in China was a marked contrast to the U.S. and Europe, where the spread of coronavirus has scarred consumer spending, underlined by dismal U.S. retail sales reported on Friday.

Also evident are doubts about how much of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden's stimulus package will make it through Congress given Republican opposition, and the risk of more mob violence at his inauguration on Wednesday.

"The data bring into question the durability of the recent move higher in bond yields and the rise in inflation compensation," said analysts at ANZ in a note.

"There's a lot of good news around vaccines and stimulus priced into equities, but optimism is being challenged by the reality of the tough few months ahead," they warned. "The risk across Europe is that lockdowns will be extended, and U.S. cases could lift sharply as the UK COVID variant spreads."

That will put the focus on earnings guidance from corporate results this week, which include BofA, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Netflix.

The poor U.S. data helped Treasuries pare some of their recent steep losses and 10-year yields were trading at 1.087%, down from last week's top of 1.187%.

The more sober mood in turn boosted the safe-haven U.S. dollar, catching a bearish market deeply short. Speculators increased their net short dollar position to the largest since May 2011 in the week ended Jan. 12. 

The dollar index duly firmed to 90.786, and away from its recent 2-1/2 year trough at 89.206.

The euro had retreated to $1.2074, from its January peak at $1.2349, while the dollar held steady on the yen at 103.80 and well above the recent low at 102.57.

The Canadian dollar eased to $1.2773 per dollar after Reuters reported Biden planned to revoke the permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline. 

Biden's pick for Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, is expected to rule out seeking a weaker dollar when testifying on Capital Hill on Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported. 

Gold prices were undermined by the bounce in the dollar leaving the metal down at $1,824 an ounce, compared to its January top of $1,959.

Oil prices ran into profit-taking on worries the spread of increasingly tight lockdowns globally would hurt demand. 

Brent crude futures were off 52 cents at $54.58 a barrel, while U.S. crude eased 46 cents to $51.90.

(Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Gerry Doyle) ((Wayne.Cole@thomsonreuters.com; 612 9171 7144; Reuters Messaging: wayne.cole.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

((To read Reuters Markets and Finance news, click on https://www.reuters.com/finance/markets For the state of play of Asian stock markets please click on: 0#.INDEXA ))

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