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Asian shares started the week in a cautious mood on Monday, as a spike in coronavirus cases across the region over the weekend hurt investor sentiment while oil hovered around 2-1/2 year highs.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was last a shade weaker at 702.57. Japan’s Nikkei slipped 0.2%, with South Korea’s benchmark KOSPI down about the same amount.
Investors were concerned about a spike in coronavirus infections in Asia, with Australia’s most populous city of Sydney plunging into a lockdown after a cluster of cases involving the highly contagious Delta strain ballooned.
Indonesia is battling record high cases while a lockdown in Malaysia is set to be extended. Thailand too announced new restrictions in Bangkok and other provinces.
Chinese shares were a touch higher with the CSI300 index up 0.2%. Data over the weekend showed profit growth at China’s industrial firms slowed again in May as surging raw material prices squeezed margins and weighed on factory activity.
The dollar was largely unchanged in early European trade Monday, maintaining a firm tone after recent inflation data as the market prepares for this week’s key payrolls release.
At 2:55 AM ET (0755 GMT), the Dollar Index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six other currencies, traded basically flat at 91.843, having recovered from Friday’s low of 91.524.
USD/JPY was 0.1% lower at 110.62, EUR/USD was down 0.1% at 1.1925, GBP/USD rose 0.1% to 1.3891, while the risk-sensitive AUD/USD was up 0.1% at 0.7590.
The dollar took an initial hit on Friday following the release of the Federal Reserve’s favorite gauge of inflation, the core U.S. personal consumption expenditures price index. This increased 0.5% in May, short of expectations for a 0.6% rise, which reassured some that inflation is not running out of control.
Even so, the year-on-year rise was 3.4%, the biggest jump since 1992, and failed to completely quell fears that the Federal Reserve will be forced to normalize monetary policy sooner than it currently expects.
Oil prices hit and then recoiled from highs last seen in October 2018 on Monday as investors eyed the outcome of this week’s OPEC+ meeting as the United States and Iran wrangle over the revival of a nuclear deal, delaying a surge in Iranian oil exports.
Brent crude for August had slipped 1 cent to $76.17 a barrel by 0619 GMT while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude for August was at $74.09 a barrel, up 4 cents.
Oil prices rose for a fifth week last week as fuel demand rebounded on strong economic growth and increased travel during summer in the northern hemisphere, while global crude supplies stayed snug as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and their allies maintained production cuts.
The producer group, known as OPEC+, is returning 2.1 million barrels per day (bpd) to the market from May through July as part of a plan to gradually unwind last year’s record oil output curbs. OPEC+ meets on July 1 and could further ease supply cuts in August as oil prices rise on demand recovery.
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