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Asian stocks slip as commodity rout feeds demand fears

TOKYO (Reuters) - Asian stocks slipped on Wednesday as crumbling commodity prices and data pointing to cooling demand from China sapped investor appetite for risk assets.

A man walks past an electronic board showing the stock market indices of various countries outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, October 23, 2015. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

Spreadbetters expected slightly calmer nerves to prevail in Europe, forecasting a modestly higher open for Britain’s FTSE, Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan lost 0.3 percent and edged towards its November trough, a break of which would take it to its lowest level since early October.

Indicators this week highlighted the struggle facing China’s economy, with soft trade numbers on Tuesday cementing concerns over cooling demand.

Wednesday’s data showed Chinese factories were plagued by persistent producer price deflation - another sign that Beijing’s easing efforts have yet to restore economic momentum.November consumer inflation did pick up slightly to 1.5 percent but was still much lower than the 2014 average of 2.0 percent.

Japan’s Nikkei shed 1.1 percent to hit a three-week low, with a surprise jump in domestic machinery orders offering little support.

Volatile Shanghai shares pared early losses and were up 0.2 percent. Weak indicators often stir hopes of government stimulus, providing a burst of support for Chinese shares.


Highlighting the plight of the broader commodity markets, the Thomson Reuters Core Commodity CRB index on Tuesday hit its lowest since November 2002.

Analysts pointed to the weak Chinese yuan as a factor deepening the gloom for commodity exporters.

“A weakening of the CNY sounds alarm bells for the many exporters that worry that Chinese demand will be dampened by a weaker currency,” wrote Angus Nicholson, market analyst at IG in Melbourne.

The currency has weakened significantly after China’s devaluation in August and the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) set the yuan midpoint rate at a four-year low.

Some still consider the yuan overvalued and expect it weaken further with its upcoming inclusion into the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights (SDR) currency basket. In theory, the yuan’s SDR inclusion would mean the PBOC may have to relinquish some of its control over the currency.

OPEC’s decision on Friday not to cut its production target has sparked concerns global oil producers will pump even more crude into an already oversupplied market.

Brent crude futures have fallen almost 30 percent so far this year after a decline of nearly 50 percent in 2014.

“The fall is driven by likely increases in supply after the OPEC meeting and as Iran will return to the market after a lift of sanctions. On the other hand, demand doesn’t look strong as many economies face downside risk,” said Shuji Shirota, head of macro economics strategy at HSBC Securities.

“At the moment, it is hard to see where a bottom will be.”

Crude did get some temporary respite from Japan’s robust machinery orders data, and Brent futures were last up 1.5 percent at $40.85 a barrel after falling to $39.81 overnight, lowest since February 2009.

Investors have another reason to be cautious on risk assets as the U.S. Federal Reserve is widely expected to raise interest rates for the first time in almost a decade next week.

The dollar soared against oil-linked currencies, touching an 11-year high against the Canadian dollar and a 13-year high versus the Norwegian crown on Tuesday.

The euro traded at $1.0914 , adding to its 0.5 percent gains on Tuesday, and edging back towards a one-month high of $1.0981 hit on Thursday after the European Central Bank’s stimulus turned out to be smaller than expected.

The dollar also edged back against the yen to 122.72 yen from this week’s high of 123.48 yen, turning negative on the week.

Reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro and Hideyuki Sano; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Eric Meijer