* Asian stocks soft, following subdued Wall St
* Worries about Fed exit plan back at fore after Fed
* China manufacturing data next in focus
By Ian Chua
SYDNEY, July 1 Asian stocks got off to an
uninspired start on Monday, while the U.S. dollar held firm at
one-month highs after an influential Federal Reserve official
suggested September could be the beginning of the end of easy
money from the central bank.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
fell 0.3 percent, having last week posted a 2.8
percent rally, its biggest weekly gain since September 2012. The
index, though, ended the first half of the year down 7.3
Tokyo's Nikkei also slipped 0.1 percent, having
climbed 3.5 percent last week to end the first half up a
handsome 31.5 percent.
"We had a big rebound in the Nikkei last Friday, so we may
see some profit-taking. I think there was some window dressing
last Friday as it was month-end and quarter-end," said Takashi
Hiroki, chief strategist at Monex Inc.
Optimism that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's aggressive
stimulus push will lift the economy has helped light a fire
under the Nikkei.
Data on Monday suggested Abe's plans are on track with a
survey showing the mood of Japanese manufacturers turning
positive for the first time in nearly two years.
Monday's market moves followed a subdued finish on Wall
Street after Fed Governor Jeremy Stein suggested that September
could be an opportune time for the central bank to consider
scaling back its massive asset-purchase programme.
Stein's remarks, aechoed by President of the Richmond Fed,
Jeffrey Lacker, undid some of the calm that spread through
markets last week after several other officials sought to play
down market fears of the Fed's plan to taper stimulus.
Critical for markets this week is the U.S. jobs data due on
Friday, given it is a key measures the Fed will consider before
deciding to start withdrawing stimulus.
In the meantime, markets will take their cue from a report
on China's vast manufacturing sector due around 0100 GMT.
Any disappointment will no doubt renew worries about the
world's second biggest economy just as markets are getting over
the impact of a recent credit crunch.
In currency markets, investors reacted to Stein's comments
by bidding up the U.S. dollar, which hit a one-month high
against a basket of major currencies. It remained near the peak
early on Monday.
The euro traded at $1.3016, having slipped 0.2
percent on Friday, while the greenback reached fresh one-month
highs of 94.55 yen.
Among the biggest losers was the Australian dollar, which
hit a fresh 33-month low of $0.9110, following Friday's
1.5 percent drop.
Partly weighing on the Aussie was a recent dramatic selloff
in gold, a major export earner for Australia. While bullion
jumped more than 2 percent on Friday, it still suffered its
biggest quarterly drop in 45 years.
Spot gold was up around 0.5 percent at $1,239 per
ounce in early trade, still not far off a near three-year trough
of $1.180.71 plumbed on Friday. Worries about the end of the
Fed's stimulus had contributed to the panic selling of the
Other commodities got off to a sleepy start with U.S. crude
down 0.4 percent at $96.22 a barrel, while copper edged
up 0.2 percent to $6,766 a tonne.