TOKYO, March 17 Asian shares got off to a shaky
start on Monday after citizens of Crimea overwhelmingly voted to
break with Ukraine to join Russia, prompting the U.S. and the
European Union to issue fresh warnings of imminent sanctions
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
was off 0.2 percent in early trade after
slumping 2.9 percent last week, its biggest in more than six
The tense backdrop pulled U.S. stock futures down
0.5 percent to the lowest in three weeks while Japan's Nikkei
was also expected to fall further from a one-month low
hit on Friday.
"The markets were expecting the Crimean to agree to join
Russia. So that alone is unlikely to move markets. The focus is
on what kind of actions Russia and the West will take next,"
said Tohru Sasaki, the head of Japan rates and FX research at
More than 90 percent of Crimeans chose the option of
annexation by Moscow in a referendum, which Western powers have
denounced as a sham.
U.S. President Barack Obama Russian said Washington rejected
the results of a referendum, warning that the United States was
ready to impose sanctions on Moscow.
Tension between Russia and the West over Ukraine have hit
share markets in recent weeks and boosted traditional safe-haven
Gold, which rose 3 percent last week, traded at $1,385.41
per ounce, just under a six-month high of $1,387.90 hit
The Japanese yen also traded near the top of its range in
the past month and a half, with the dollar fetching 101.41 yen
, not far from this year's low around 100.80 yen.
The euro stood at $1.3912, off 2 1/2-year high around
$1.3967 reached last Thursday after European Central Bank chief
Mario Draghi voiced concerns about the strength of the common
Another big focus in Asia is on the Chinese yuan after
Beijing announced on Saturday it is doubling the daily trading
range for the yuan, adding teeth to a promise it would allow
market forces to play a greater role in the economy and its
markets. The move is effective on Monday.
Analysts said the move was a sign of confidence that the
central bank had successfully fought off a plague of currency
speculators, and at the same time signalled that regulators
believe the economy is stable enough to handle more promised
financial reforms to freer markets.
In the onshore market, the yuan closed at 6.1502 to the
dollar while the offshore yuan in Hong Kong hit a
10-month low of 6.1560 to the dollar on Friday.