* Asian shares near 1-month low as investors brace for
* Gold hits 6-month high, yen near top of recent range
* Yuan slips 0.15 pct after China widens yuan trading band
* European shares seen down, DAX seen off 0.2 pct
By Hideyuki Sano
TOKYO, March 17 Asian shares hovered around
one-month lows on Monday as Western countries issued fresh
warnings of more sanctions on Moscow after Crimea voted
overwhelmingly to break from Ukraine to join Russia, as
Japan's Nikkei led losses with a fall of 0.7 percent,
sliding to a one-month low while U.S. stock futures
dropped as much as 0.5 percent to three-week lows before paring
The MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside
Japan was flat, staying near Friday's one-month
low. Last week it fell 2.9 percent, its biggest slide in more
than six months.
European shares are expected to slip when they open on
Monday, with Germany's DAX seen falling as much as 0.2 percent
from a five-month low hit last week.
"The markets were expecting Crimea 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 JPMorgan
Crimea's Moscow-backed leaders declared a 96-percent vote in
favour of quitting Ukraine and annexation by Russia. Western
powers said the referendum was illegal and they will impose
President Barack Obama, rejecting the referendum result,
warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that the United States
was ready to impose sanctions on Moscow, in the gravest crisis
in East-West relations since the Cold War.
"We have to see what kind of sanctions the West will take.
Obviously more Russians may feel they want to move their assets
out of the dollar to safer assets," said a proprietary trader at
a Japanese bank.
Indeed, a record decline in foreign holdings of U.S.
Treasuries published on Friday has led to speculation Russia may
have already stashed away its dollar reserves ahead of possible
sanctions from the West.
Escalating tension between the West and Russia is raising
fear of a major disruption to the global economy, with investors
unsure when and how the crisis will be settled.
"If people start to review the optimistic consensus on the
global economy at the start of year, we could see more than a
minor adjustment in risk assets," the Japanese bank trader said.
In contrast, gold, seen as a safe haven at a time of crisis
as it is not backed by any states, briefly rose to a six-month
high of $1,391.76 per once, adding to last week's 3 percent
gain. It last stood at $1,383.11.
The Japanese yen, often used as a funding currency for
investment in higher-yielding assets, also traded near the top
of its range in the past month and a half, with the dollar
fetching 101.45 yen, not far from this year's low around
The euro stood at $1.3907, off a 2 1/2-year high
around $1.3967 reached last Thursday after European Central Bank
chief Mario Draghi spoke of concerns about the strength of the
The yuan weakened after Beijing announced on Saturday it was
doubling its daily trading range from Monday, adding purpose to
the promise it would allow market forces a greater role in the
economy and markets.
In the onshore market, the yuan dropped 0.2 percent to
6.1642 to the dollar while the offshore yuan in Hong
Kong hit a 10-month low of 6.1624 to the dollar.
Analysts said the widening of the trading band 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 financial reform.
Elsewhere, U.S. wheat futures rose nearly 1 percent to
edge near 4 1/2-month high hit on Thursday on concern about
possible disruption in production and transportation of wheat in
Ukraine, a major wheat grower.
On the other hand, copper found some calm after a sharp fall
earlier this month, with London copper trading little
changed at $6,641 a tonne, a tad above four-year low of
$6,376.25 hit last week.