TOKYO Jan 6 Asian shares dipped on Monday,
while the dollar hovered near a four-week high, maintaining
gains even after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the
U.S. central bank is committed to an accommodative policy.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
eased 0.1 percent, adding to a 1.1 percent drop
to a two-week low on Friday. The index lost 1.7 percent last
year, sharply underperforming U.S., Japanese and European
Thai stocks may come under further pressure after
they hit a 16-month low on Friday on heightened political
uncertainties ahead of next month's general election, while the
baht slumped to a near four-year low of 33.03 per
dollar set late last week.
In Tokyo, Nikkei futures dropped 1.5 percent, indicating a
weak opening for Japanese stocks in the first trading day of
2014. The benchmark jumped 57 percent last year to mark its best
annual rise since 1972 on the back of massive fiscal and
The dollar was steady at 104.85 yen. On Friday, it
rebounded from a near two-week low of 104.08 yen despite the
remarks by Bernanke. He said the U.S. central bank is no less
committed to highly accommodative policy now that it has trimmed
its bond-buying programme by $10 billion to $75 billion a month,
in what could be his last speech as Fed chairman.
Against a basket of major currencies, the dollar
added 0.1 percent to near a four-week high set on Friday.
Bernanke, who steps down as head of the Fed at month's end,
gave an upbeat assessment of the U.S. economy in coming
quarters, but he tempered the good news in housing, finance and
fiscal policies by repeating that the overall recovery "clearly
U.S. stocks ended last week slightly weaker, with the
Standard & Poor's 500 down 0.5 percent for the week after
it jumped 30 percent in 2013.
Friday's nonfarm payrolls data will give further clues as to
how well the U.S. economy is recovering and how fast the Fed
will unwind its stimulus campaign, which has been a major driver
for global assets in the past few years.
"With the Fed having set the tapering process in motion, it
would likely take a fairly significant miss to derail tapering
expectations and push yields significantly lower from their
year-end levels," analysts at BNP Paribas wrote in a note.
"Against this backdrop, the dollar is likely to remain
generally well-supported this week, particularly versus the
lower-yielding G10 currencies," they added.
The euro was little changed at $1.3591, taking a
pause after dropping 0.6 percent in the previous session.
Among commodities, gold inched up 0.1 percent to
about $1,237.7 an ounce, hovering near a three-week high and
heading for a fifth-day of gains. The precious metal suffered a
28 percent slump in 2013, its worst yearly performance since
1981, largely due to the Fed's plan to unwind its stimulus
U.S. crude futures gained 0.2 percent to above $94 a
barrel, coming off a four-week low set on Friday after data
showed a larger-than-expected build in distillates.