* Asia subdued ahead of Chinese manufacturing survey
* Sterling strengthened, Canadian dollar dented by rate
* Wall Street unimpressed by mixed bag of corporate earnings
By Wayne Cole
SYDNEY, Jan 23 Asian markets got off to a soggy
start on Thursday as investors counted down to data on Chinese
manufacturing, while diverging outlooks for interest rates sent
the British pound soaring and tipped the Canadian dollar into a
An indifferent session on Wall Street and a mixed run of
U.S. corporate earnings sapped the energy from stocks. MSCI's
broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
dipped 0.2 percent, while Australia's main index
lost 0.4 percent.
The Dow ended Wednesday down 0.25 percent, while the
S&P 500 added 0.06 percent and the Nasdaq 0.41
IBM missed revenue expectations for a fourth straight
quarter, driving down shares of the world's largest technology
services company by nearly 4 percent, making them the biggest
drag on the market.
Attention in Asia was on the HSBC China flash PMI for
January at 0145 GMT, which will give an early hint on the health
of its massive manufacturing sector.
The December survey disappointed with a reading of 50.5 and
any further dip would be taken badly by markets.
Investors seem to have a "glass half empty" view of the
Asian giant these days which is why a better-than-expected
reading on economic growth released earlier in the week caused
only a fleeting rally in markets.
Later Thursday, Europe has its own version of early PMIs
along with a round of unemployment figures.
The Eurozone composite PMI is seen edging up to 52.4 in
January, from 52.1, led mostly by strength in Germany while
France could again lag behind.
In currencies, it was all about central bank expectations.
Sterling surged after a sharp fall in UK unemployment stoked
speculation the Bank of England would have to bring forward the
day when it started hiking interest rates.
The euro duly fell to a one-year low against sterling of
81.81 pence, while the pound jumped over a cent on
the U.S. dollar.
Across the pond, the Canadian dollar tumbled to a
more than four-year low after the Bank of Canada said it was
growing more concerned about low inflation, leaving the door
wide open to a cut in interest rates.
The central bank also took a rhetorical razor to the
Canadian dollar saying a weaker currency would be positive for
both exports and inflation.
The stark contrast with the situation in the UK, saw the
pound soar 1.8 percent on the Canadian currency to the highest
The U.S. dollar found some support from expectations the
Federal Reserve will make another $10 billion cut to its monthly
bond-buying program at its policy meeting next week.
The dollar was modestly firmer on the yen at 104.54,
while the euro marked time at $1.3546.
In commodity markets, freezing temperatures in the U.S.
Northeast drove up prices for natural gas and oil.
U.S. crude oil futures were at $96.63 a barrel early
Thursday after jumping more than a dollar overnight. Brent oil
for March delivery had ended up $1.35 at $108.08.
Gold lost ground after its repeated failure to break above
key technical resistance at $1,260 an ounce prompted investors
to take profits. Spot gold was off at $1,237.21 per
ounce, leaving behind Monday's peak of $1,259.85.