* Wall St ends lower, losses led by tech sector
* European stocks supported, euro hit by speculation of ECB
* Asian markets hoping for concrete stimulus steps from
By Wayne Cole
SYDNEY, March 27 Asian markets got off to a
skittish start on Thursday following a late dip on Wall Street
amid talk of tougher sanctions on Russia and a drop in
Yet speculation about fresh policy stimulus in Europe kept
markets there firm, while pushing down bond yields and the euro.
Rumours of stimulus steps in China have also been supporting
Asian stocks in recent sessions, though that might start to fade
if no concrete news emerges soon.
The early action was cautious with the Australian market off
0.9 percent and MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific
shares outside Japan down 0.24 percent. Nikkei
futures were pointing to a modestly lower start.
Some blamed Wall Street's slip on news the United States and
the European Union had agreed to work together to prepare
possible tougher economic sanctions in response to Russia's
behaviour in Ukraine.
The Dow ended down 0.60 percent, while the S&P 500
fell 0.70 percent. The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite
Index lost 1.43 percent to a low not seen in six weeks.
Earlier, European stocks had gained for a second day
and the MSCI emerging equities index added 1 percent.
The U.S. losses were led by technology stocks, with Facebook
off almost 7 percent a day after announcing a $2 billion
takeover of Oculus VR Inc, a maker of virtual-reality glasses
Shares in Citigroup Inc fell after hours when the
Federal Reserve rejected its plans to buy back $6.4 billion of
stock and boost its dividends, citing deficiencies in the bank's
ability to plan for stressful situations.
Others blocked by the Fed in their plans for higher
dividends or share buy backs included the U.S. units of HSBC
, RBS and Santander.
In debt markets, the talk was all about an auction of new
U.S. five-year notes that drew such stellar demand
from investors that it left dealers with the lowest share of an
offer on record.
That drove five-year yields down a sharp 7 basis points to
1.74 percent, unwinding some of the rise seen since Federal
Reserve Chair Janet Yellen last week spooked markets with talk
of rate hikes next year.
Yields in Europe have been falling even more as policymakers
there hint at radical stimulus measures. Some of the European
Central Bank's most conservative policymakers have said the bank
could adopt more unconventional measures to tackle a surging
euro and ward off deflation.
As a result the premium that U.S. two-year notes offer over
German debt hit a 15-month high on Wednesday, making the euro
relatively less attractive against the dollar.
That saw the single currency ease to $1.3783, well
off the week's peak of $1.3875. The biggest loss came against
the Australian dollar where the euro sank 0.9 percent to a
four-month trough at A$1.4910.
The U.S. dollar was a touch softer against the yen at 102.02
, but steady against a basket of major currencies at
In precious metals trading, spot gold was subdued at
$1,304.19 an ounce after plumbing a 5-week bottom of $1,298.29.
U.S. crude oil was holding at $100.19 a barrel having
gained a dollar on Wednesday as inventories at the future's
delivery point dropped for the eighth straight week.
Brent for May delivery was up a cent at $107.00 a
(Editing by Shri Navaratnam)