* Asian markets supported by Wall Street gains, better US
* Investors wary over China credit squeeze, falling Shanghai
* Currencies mostly steady, trading thin with Japan on
By Wayne Cole
SYDNEY, Dec 23 Asian markets inched cautiously
higher on Monday encouraged by record highs for Wall Street,
though anxiety over a credit squeeze in China has weighed on
shares there while adding to pressure on emerging market
Volumes were very light with Tokyo on holiday on Monday and
Christmas almost here. Australia's main index added 0.3
percent while S&P 500 futures gained 0.25 percent.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
was a fraction firmer.
Sentiment should be underpinned by upbeat data on U.S.
economic growth and the resilience of stocks to the Federal
Reserve's decision to start scaling back its bond-buying
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones ended Friday up 0.26
percent, while the S&P 500 Index added 0.48 percent.
Europe's broad FTSEurofirst 300 index rose 0.45
The dollar was idling at 104.03 yen on Monday after
scoring a fresh 5-year high at 104.64 last week. Dealers cited
option barriers at 104.75 and 105.00 as the next target for
The euro was steady at $1.3674, but well short of
last week's $1.3811 peak. The single currency was only briefly
troubled on Friday when Standard & Poor's cut its supranational
long-term rating on the European Union to AA-plus from AAA,
citing rising tensions on budget negotiations.
Yields on benchmark 10-year Treasuries were
holding at 2.89 percent having risen just 2 basis points last
week even as the Fed announced its tapering.
In Asia, all eyes were on China after the country's central
bank sought to allay fears of a cash crunch on Friday, saying it
has added $50 billion in three days to the interbank market.
Rapid credit growth in the world's second-biggest economy
has worried China's authorities, who fear rising debt levels are
fuelling asset bubbles.
The People's Bank of China (PBOC) injected more than 300
billion yuan into the interbank market in response to rising
rates, but hinted that banks have work to do if they want to
avoid a cash crunch.
Worries about the banking system contributed to a 2 percent
drop in Shanghai shares on Friday.
The combination of Fed tapering and tighter China interest
rates could weigh on emerging market currencies and assets, as
it did back in June.
Currencies from Indonesia to Malaysia and Thailand all came
under pressure last week and even the Korean won lost a little
of its strength.
Still, analysts at Deutsche argued that emerging markets
(EM) Asia could weather any outflow of capital.
"Asia remains best placed -- the reform effort in China and
India is significant; and the smaller, more open economies will
benefit disproportionately from strengthening demand in the U.S.
and Europe," said Drausio Giacomelli in a note to clients.
"The value of EM as a diversifier will increase once
uncertainty about the future of US monetary policy eases into
2014," he added, noting that emerging markets were just a
fraction of global portfolio at around 3 percent or lower.
In commodity markets, gold has been getting less precious by
the day due to the winding back of U.S. stimulus and a general
lack of global inflationary pressure.
The metal was pinned at $1,204.81 on Monday after
carving out a six-month low of $1,187.80 last week. If prices
stay here the metal would have shed 28 percent this year, the
largest annual loss in 32 years.
In contrast, oil prices have been supported by a positive
outlook for fuel demand in the United States and reduced Libyan
supply. Brent crude was off 5 cents on Monday at $111.72
a barrel, but that followed gains of almost 3 percent last week.
U.S. oil futures were 13 cents lower at $99.19.