Sunday, May 27, 2012

GLOBAL MARKETS-Shares, euro consolidate from lows, remain vulnerable

By Chikako Mogi TOKYO, May 28 (Reuters) - Asian shares and the euro edged up from lows on Monday as surveys showing a lead in opinion polls for Greece's pro-bailout camps helped ease risk aversion and calm fears of a disorderly exit from the euro bloc. The MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan inched up 0.2 percent, after hitting its lowest level since late December on Friday. The pan-Asia stock index posted a third consecutive week of losses last week, shedding 0.8 percent for its longest losing streak in six months. The index has now wiped out all its gains for the year, having been up some 15 percent from end-2011 levels in late February. Japan's Nikkei average opened up 0.3 percent. It posted its longest weekly losing run in 20 years last week. Investors sold off riskier assets and fled to the safety of the U.S. dollar last week on mounting concerns about Greece and instability in the Spanish banking sector amid a lack of immediate policy responses from European leaders. Currency speculators raised long dollar positions to the highest level since at least mid-2008 while euro short positions rose to the highest on record, Commodity Futures Trading Commission data showed on Friday. Speculators also were net short on the Australian dollar, having cut their net long positions all month. "In the absence of bold policy responses from Europe so far, we recommend being long the USD and JPY," Barclays Capital analysts said in a research note. "Should data or headlines surprise to the upside, safe haven longs may see some unwind, and we favour fading these moves," they said. Trading is expected to be subdued on Monday amid a lack of key economic data and a U.S. market holiday for Memorial Day. U.S. crude rose 0.5 percent to $91.31 a barrel on Monday while Brent was up 0.1 percent at $106.97 a barrel. EURO ON GUARD The euro was up 0.4 percent at $1.2561 on Monday while the Australian dollar inched up 0.1 percent to $0.9810, well above a six-month low of $0.9690 hit last week. The euro fell to its lowest since July, 2010, on Friday at $1.2495, after the president of Catalonia, Spain's wealthiest autonomous region, said it was running out of options for refinancing more than 13 billion euros ($16.27 billion) in debt due this year. Sentiment has been weakening on fears that rising bank rescue costs could force the euro zone's fourth largest economy to seek an international bailout. A government source said on Sunday that Spain may recapitalise its fourth-largest bank, Bankia, which last week asked for 19 billion euros in funding ($24 billion). with government bonds in return for shares. On a positive note, surveys showed on Saturday Greece's conservatives have regained an opinion poll lead that would allow the formation of a government committed to keeping the country in the euro zone. Uncertainty, however, will persist until Greece holds the crucial election on June 17, keeping markets guarded. Switzerland is drawing up plans for emergency measures including capital controls in case the euro collapses, although it does not expect to need them and will continue to defend a cap on the franc in the meantime, the head of the central bank said. Investors cut their risk exposure across assets. Data from EPFR Global showed in the week ending May 23, Emerging Markets Equity, Commodities and Energy Sector Funds and Europe Equity Funds all saw redemptions in excess of $1 billion while High Yield Bond Funds had their biggest outflows in over nine months.

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