* Caution in the air in week packed with manufacturing data,
* Euro on defensive as pressure builds for ECB easing this
* Official China PMI dips to 50.5 as expected
By Wayne Cole
SYDNEY, Feb 3 Asian shares look set for another
trying week as strains in emerging markets show little sign of
abating, while growing pressure for another policy easing in
Europe shoved the euro to 10-week lows.
Early Monday, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares
outside Japan was down 0.2 percent with the
Australian bourse off 0.5 percent. Nikkei futures
were also pointing to a soft opening for Tokyo shares.
The week ahead has plenty of event risk with a raft of
global business surveys and jobs data from the United States to
offer a clearer view on how well the global economy is faring,
while the European Central Bank (ECB) might well ease at its
meeting on Thursday.
Investors will be hoping this month is not a repeat of
January given MSCI's global index posted its
largest monthly decline since May 2012. Emerging markets
lost 6.6 percent for their worst January since 2009.
Not helping was another downbeat report from China where the
official Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) dipped to 50.5 in
January from December's 51, in line with market expectations.
Analysts cautioned that the ongoing Lunar New Year holiday,
which began on Jan. 31, probably dragged on output as
manufacturers shut shop for China's biggest annual holiday.
Europe and the United States release their versions of the
PMI later Monday and expectations are they will show continued
growth, which could help reassure skittish investors.
However, while the euro zone is slowly recovering inflation
is getting dangerously low, piling pressure on the ECB to take
further policy action.
Inflation in the region ran at just 0.7 percent for the year
to January, a level that has prompted the central bank to ease
in the past.
"We think the low inflation readings in the euro area, along
with fears of a further decline into deflationary territory,
will lead the ECB to cut the main refinancing rate by 15 basis
points, and to cut the deposit rate by 10 basis points," said
Dean Maki, an economist at Barclays.
"Advanced economy growth is benefiting from the very
accommodative monetary policy that has been fostered by low
This relative improvement in growth is one reason investors
have been switching funds out of emerging markets and into the
The prospect of a further easing in Europe has also weighed
on the single currency, pinning it at a 10-week low of $1.3477
on Monday following a break of major support at $1.3506.
The euro likewise fell sharply on the yen to hit 137.44
, its lowest since November. The Japanese currency was
aided by safe haven flows amid the strains in emerging markets
and gained broadly.
The dollar was stuck at 102.18 yen and threatening
recent lows, and major support, around 101.77/85.
The same flight from risk boosted the major bond markets,
with yields on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note
down at 2.65 percent and again levels not seen since
In commodities, gold failed to benefit as much and actually
lost ground over the past week to stand at $1,242.84 an ounce
Brent oil was off another 26 cents at $106.14 a
barrel, having suffered its biggest monthly loss in four months.
U.S. crude eased 22 cents to $97.27.