* European spreadbetters predict soft market open
* Euro undermined by ECB officials' talk of more easing
* Ukraine's Monday ultimatum to separatists saps risk
* Japan's Nikkei marks fresh 6-month closing low
* Yen, gold bolstered as investors seek safety
By Lisa Twaronite
TOKYO, April 14 Asian shares gave up more ground
on Monday after a dismal week on Wall Street and tensions in
Ukraine sapped investors' appetite for risk, which helped
underpin the safe-haven yen.
The dour sentiment is set to carry through to Europe.
Financial spreadbetters expected Britain's FTSE 100 to
open about 0.6 percent lower, Germany's DAX to start
down 0.9 percent, and France's CAC 40 off 0.8 percent.
"European equities are set to start on the back foot as last
week's negative sentiment remains firmly intact," said Jonathan
Sudaria, a dealer at London Capital Group.
"One thing certainly adding to the risk off sentiment will
be the developments in Ukraine," Sudaria said in a note to
Ukraine gave pro-Russian separatists a Monday morning
deadline to disarm or face a "full-scale anti-terrorist
operation" by its armed forces, raising the risk of a military
confrontation with Moscow.
European Union foreign ministers will hold talks later on
Monday about tougher sanctions against Russia.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
shed 0.5 percent, pulling further away from
five-month highs hit on Thursday.
Japan's Nikkei stock average briefly turned positive
during Friday's session, but ended down 0.4 percent at a fresh
six-month closing low. The Nikkei stumbled 7.3 percent last
week, its biggest weekly fall since the devastating earthquake
and tsunami in March 2011.
S&P 500 e-mini futures were down about 0.2 percent on
Monday, after U.S. stocks slid in a volatile session on Friday.
The Nasdaq closed below the 4,000 mark for the first time since
early February as investors bailed out of high-flying technology
and biotech shares.
Investors were wary that Wall Street's rout might continue.
"Some are worried that a U.S. bubble in equities markets
might be corrected, because of the ongoing tapering" of monetary
stimulus by the U.S. Federal Reserve, said Kyoya Okazawa, head
of global equities at BNP Paribas in Tokyo.
The low-yielding yen benefited from the heightened risk
aversion. The dollar was edged down to 101.59 yen, after
touching a 3-1/2-week low of 101.32 yen on Friday, a far cry
from a 2-1/2-month high of 104.13 yen set on April 4.
"Wall Street's performance will remain a key driver for the
dollar and yen. Near-term focus is on 101.20 yen. It appears
significant bids for the dollar are lined up there, and a break
below that level is likely to trigger significant covering of
yen shorts," said Junichi Ishikawa, market analyst at IG
Securities in Tokyo.
A break below 101.20 yen, a low hit on March 3 when Russia
was tightening its grip on Crimea, would take the dollar to a
The dollar index steadied, rising about 0.2 percent
to 79.606, although April 4's seven-week high of 80.599 remained
a distant memory after the greenback's battering last week as
U.S. stocks tumbled.
The dollar got some help against the euro from European
Central Bank officials, whose comments rekindled speculation
about more easing in the euro zone.
The euro fell about 0.3 percent to 140.70 yen.
Against the dollar, it shed about 0.2 percent to $1.3852,
moving away from a 3-1/2-week peak of $1.3906 hit on Friday.
ECB President Mario Draghi on Saturday told a news
conference that "a further strengthening of the exchange rate
would require further stimulus."
The ECB is ready to make asset purchases if it deems them
necessary to counter a prolonged period of low inflation, ECB
Executive Board member Benoit Coeure said on Sunday. ECB
governing council member Christian Noyer said on Monday in an
interview with daily newspaper Le Figaro that euro weakening was
Spot gold XAU= benefited from the move towards safe-haven
assets, adding about 0.6 percent to $1,327.10 an ounce, after
earlier marking a new three-week high.
U.S. crude for May delivery added 0.4 percent to
$104.18 per barrel and Brent crude rose 0.5 percent to
$107.90, bolstered by fears that the Ukraine situation could
escalate. Ukraine is a major supply route for Russian gas to
(Additional reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro; Editing by Chris
Gallagher & Shri Navaratnam)