Asian shares falter again, poised for first weekly loss since late-September

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside of Japan was last down 0.3%

  
An employee of a foreign exchange trading company works in front of monitors in Tokyo, Japan November 7, 2018. Image used for illustrative purpose

An employee of a foreign exchange trading company works in front of monitors in Tokyo, Japan November 7, 2018. Image used for illustrative purpose

REUTERS/Toru Hanai

SYDNEY - A gauge of Asian shares fell for a third straight session on Friday as jitters over upcoming U.S. presidential elections and fears that the global economic downturn will persist enveloped markets, though the index was still set to end the month higher.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside of Japan was last down 0.3%, on track to the end the week 1.3% lower after four straight weeks of gains.

The index is up 3.7% in October so far. Analysts expect this broader outperformance to extend further.

"For a crisis of this scale, Asian equities have performed remarkably well," Citi analysts wrote in a note.

"Within the region, markets with a higher weighting of technology stocks or where the recovery has become more entrenched have outperformed," they added. "This solid performance can continue, in our view. Valuations are reasonable for an early stage of a recovery while liquidity is generous. There has also been a perceptible drop in volatility in recent months."

The mood on Friday was less positive, though. Australia's ASX 200 fell 0.2% and New Zealand's benchmark index faltered 0.6%. Japan's Nikkei slipped 0.8% as did South Korea's KOSPI index.

Chinese shares were marginally higher, with the blue-chip index up 0.07%.

E-Mini futures for S&P500 stumbled 0.9% in early Asian trading, a signal Wall Street would open in the red later in the day.

Record numbers of coronavirus cases worldwide and the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election remained the major factors looming ahead for investors. On Wednesday, global coronavirus cases rose by over 500,000 for the first time as France and Germany prepped fresh lockdowns.

The falls in Asia occurred despite a solid session on Wall Street overnight, which was helped by a diet of strong quarterly reports from tech giants and data showing the U.S. economy grew at a historic annualised pace of 33.1% in the third quarter.

Google parent Alphabet, Amazon.com Inc, Apple Inc and Facebook Inc all beat analyst estimates for quarterly revenue, with Amazon reporting a second straight quarter of record profits. 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 0.52%. The S&P 500 gained 1.19% and the Nasdaq Composite added 1.64%.

"Even with the rebound, U.S. output remains 3.5% below its pre-COVID levels. The path towards recovery is much less clear from here, especially as the number of virus cases grows and there are near-term impediments to a fiscal deal," wrote ANZ analysts in a note.

The European Central Bank committed to further action in December to further lend economic support as European nations grappled with a renewed coronavirus outbreak.

Analysts expect an expansion and extension of the ECB's Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme, a lower deposit facility rate, and even more generous lending terms for banks in December.

The announcement sent the euro sliding to a four-week low of $0.1648 to be last at $1.1678.

The dollar was weaker against the Japanese yen at 104.46 while the risk-sensitive Australian dollar rose 0.3% to $0.7050.

In commodities, oil picked up after hitting a five-month low on Thursday, with Brent crude futures up 9 cents at $37.74 a barrel and U.S. crude adding 11 cents at $36.28.

Gold rose, with spot prices climbing 0.2% to $1,870.9 an ounce.

(Reporting by Swati Pandey in Sydney and Pete Schroeder in New York; Editing by Tom Brown and Gerry Doyle) ((Pete.Schroeder@thomsonreuters.com; 202-310-5485;))

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