* European shares seen moving mostly flat at open
* Weak China data released on weekend offsets upbeat U.S
* Ukrainian uncertainty add to geopolitical concerns
By Shinichi Saoshiro
TOKYO, March 10 Asian stocks fell sharply on
Monday and the dollar stepped back from its recent highs as
surprisingly weak Chinese trade data rattled investors already
on edge over the crisis in Ukraine.
European shares were seen opening largely flat with the poor
Chinese data tempering optimism from a robust U.S. nonfarm
Financial spreadbetters predicted Britain's FTSE 100
would open as much as 0.06 percent higher, Germany's DAX
up 0.13 percent and France's CAC 40 add as much
as 0.18 percent.
Investors greeted the new week in Asia on a cautious note
after data issued on Saturday showed China's exports
unexpectedly tumbled in February, swinging the trade balance
into deficit and adding to fears of a slowdown in the world's
The soft Chinese data put a damper on risk sentiment, which
had been temporarily boosted by stronger-than-expected U.S.
nonfarm payrolls out on Friday showing employers had added
175,000 jobs to their payrolls last month, up from 129,000 new
positions in January.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
lost 1.4 percent, and Tokyo's Nikkei stock
average shed 1.0 percent, retreating from Friday's
China's CSI300 index slid to its lowest in nearly
nine months, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index shed 1.8
U.S. stock futures fell 0.4 percent from their record
closing high on Friday.
"Fundamentally speaking, data out of the U.S. has a bigger
underlying market impact, but the psychological effect from
Chinese economic indicators cannot be overlooked. The Nikkei's
attempt to chase further highs being derailed is a prime
example," said Koji Fukaya, president at FPG Securities in
"The rise in yields after the upbeat U.S. data supports the
dollar, but latest indicators out of China dampens risk appetite
and may foil the currency's advances against the yen," Fukaya
Russian forces tightened their grip on Crimea, seizing
another border post and a military airfield, fanning tensions
ahead of a planned Moscow-backed referendum on Sunday on whether
the Black Sea peninsula should join Russia.
Diplomatic efforts to cool the crisis in Ukraine calmed
markets toward the end of last week, but rising tensions over
Russia's intervention in Crimea have kept investors on edge.
Adding to the sombre mood, a Malaysia Airlines flight with
239 people on board vanished en route to Beijing from Kuala
Lumpur in the early hours of Saturday, with questions mounting
over possible security lapses and whether a bomb or hijacking
could have brought down the plane.
The U.S. dollar index, a composite of six currency
pairs dipped 0.1 percent to 79.683 after touching a high of
79.847 on Friday after the U.S. jobs data.
Against the safe haven yen the dollar stood at 103.12,
pulling away from a six-week high of 103.77 hit on Friday.
The euro remained near recent highs, with bulls still
heartened by the European Central Bank's reluctance last week to
take further policy action.
The single currency traded at $1.3879, within striking
distance of a 2-1/2 year peak of $1.3915 reached on Friday.
China's yuan opened trade at 6.1554 per dollar on
Monday, down 0.5 percent from Friday's close of 6.1260, before
moving to 6.1451. The yuan as well as Chinese short-term rates
fell amid expectations Beijing is quietly easing monetary policy
to buttress wobbly economic growth.
Gold edged lower for a second straight session on Monday
after the strong U.S. jobs data eased fears of an economic
slowdown and dimmed the metal's safe-haven appeal.
But underlining the fact that the crisis in the Ukraine was
likely to remain a key theme for the precious metal, data from
the Commodity Futures Trading showed that hedge funds and money
managers raised their bullish bets in gold futures and options
for a fourth consecutive week as geopolitical tensions boosted
speculative interest to its highest in more than a year.
In wake of disappointing Chinese data, Brent crude
declined 55 cents to $108.45 a barrel, ending two straight days
of gains. Geopolitical tensions in Ukraine and Libya limited the
"Oil pulled back because of the latest data from China
despite continuing tensions over Ukraine," said Victor Shum,
vice-president of energy consultancy IHS Energy Insight. "The
ongoing situation in Ukraine will put a high floor on oil prices
and lead to more volatility."
The weak data also fanned concerns over China's metals
industry. Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange
dropped 1.6 percent to $6,674.75 a tonne. It earlier
slid as far as $6,608 a tonne, its weakest since June 25, when
it stopped at $6,602, the lowest since July 2010.