Shares slip as economic strains pile up

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    SINGAPORE/WASHINGTON- Asian stocks eased from a two-year high on Wednesday, as a mixed bag of economic data had investors a touch more circumspect about the global recovery, while oil jumped to a five-month peak owing to a hurricane disrupting output in the Gulf of Mexico.

    MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged down 0.1 percent after hitting its highest since mid-2018 on Tuesday. Japan’s Nikkei was off 0.1 percent.

    The US dollar nursed small losses in currency trading, though moves were muted ahead of a key Thursday speech from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell in which he is expected to outline the central bank’s next steps.

    A day ago, investors had been cheered by signs of progress – or at least the lack of deterioration – in Sino-US trade relations. But as company earnings season wraps up, and focus comes back to economic data, the outlook is turning murkier.

    Consumer confidence dropped to a more than six-year low in the United States this month, data showed on Tuesday, overshadowing a boom in new home sales.

    “If you look at the macro numbers, a lot of the improvement in Q2 seems to be slowing down in momentum,” said Tai Hui, Hong Kong-based J.P. Morgan Asset Management’s chief market strategist in Asia.

    “Central banks and governments are not really announcing anything new, and so markets are in a bit of a sideways move at this point in time.”

    In commodity markets oil prices hung on to overnight gains as US producers closed offshore output and battened down as Hurricane Laura drives toward the Gulf coast. – Reuters