Asian shares muted as tech blues offset U.S. tax cut optimism

FILE PHOTO: Passersby walk past an electronic board showing market indices outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, October 23, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato


By Hideyuki Sano

TOKYO (Reuters) – Asian shares were subdued on Tuesday as investors’ rotation out of technology shares took a toll on some of the region’s tech heavyweights although hopes of a major tax cut in the United States underpinned risk sentiment.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan were little changed, with a fall in semi-conductor shares offset by gains in telecom and financial shares. Japan’s Nikkei fell 0.5 percent, led by declines in high-flying technology shares.

“I would say the market is hitting a speed bump after a strong rally so far this year,” said Yukino Yamada, senior strategist at Daiwa Securities.

MSCI’s ex-Japan Asia-Pacific index is up almost 30 percent so far this year, and is on course to mark its best year since 2010.

On Wall Street, the benchmark S&P 500 finished lower on Monday after setting a record intraday high earlier as the technology sector, which has led Wall Street’s record-setting rally this year, tumbled 1.9 percent.

The tech index hit a five-week low and was down 4.3 percent from its record peak hit a week ago although it still remained the best performer of the year with year-to-date gains of 33 percent.

Investors switched to banks and retailers, which are seen benefiting from the expected corporate tax cuts.

President Donald Trump’s goal of slashing taxes on businesses cleared an important hurdle at the weekend when the U.S. Senate narrowly approved the Republican’s tax overhaul plan.

The S&P 500 banks index surged 2.3 percent while battered department store shares also jumped.

“Some high-tech shares’ valuations are getting stretched. For the entire market to keep rallying, we needed a sector rotation,” said Nobuyuki Kashihara, head of research at Asset Management One.

“On the whole, the world’s shares are supported by a synchronized growth in the global economy,” he added.

U.S. tax cut optimism supported the dollar in the currency market, particularly against the yen.

Yet, concerns about the ongoing investigation into contacts between Trump’s election campaign and Russia sapped some of the market’s enthusiasm.

The dollar fetched 112.48 yen, little changed in Asia after a brief foray to 113.09 on Monday, which was its highest level in more than two weeks.

The euro was steadier at $1.1875, sitting comfortably in its familiar trading range between $1.1810-1.1960, as the common currency was helped by hopes the two major German parties will form a grand coalition.

The British pound stood at $1.3475, off last week’s two-month high of $1.3550, after European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and British Prime Minister Theresa May failed to reach an agreement on a divorce deal.

The Australian dollar gained 0.6 percent to $0.7637 following better-than-expected domestic retail sales for October.

Bitcoin ticked down 1.3 percent to $11,470, still hovering near its record high of $11,800 set on Sunday.

Oil gained slightly after falling more than 1 percent on Monday, buoyed by expectations of a drop in U.S. crude stockpiles and after last week’s deal between OPEC and other crude producers to extend output curbs

U.S. West Texas Intermediate futures traded at $57.55 per barrel, up 0.1 percent for the day.

International benchmark Brent futures inched up 0.1 percent to $62.52 a barrel.

Some market players fear the killing of former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh on Monday may destabilize the impoverished, and worn-torn country even further, threatening the safety of a major shipping route through the Strait of Bab al-Mandeb straight on the Red Sea off the Yemeni coasts.

(Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Jacqueline Wong)
Copyright 2017 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.

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