Asian markets mostly down, pound dips after London attack

By Agence France-Presse

Asian markets began the week mostly lower Monday as investors mulled the impact of a weekend terror attack in London that saw the pound lose ground.

A weaker-than-expected US employment report also weighed on markets, with wage growth and hiring coming in below expectations and testing confidence in the global outlook.

In Tokyo the Nikkei 225, which closed Friday at its highest level for nearly two years, ended marginally down. Hong Kong ended 0.2 percent lower and Shanghai closed down 0.5 percent. Sydney was off 0.6 percent while Singapore was flat and Seoul closed 0.1 percent off.

"Ugly best describes Friday’s US employment report as the headline miss was compounded by revisions lower to the previous two months data," said Stephen Innes, senior trader at OANDA.

The dollar fetched 110.50 yen, up from 110.44 yen in New York, but well off the levels around 111.60 yen earlier Friday in Asia owing to the soft US jobs data.

"The (jobs) numbers were solid enough to keep the (Federal Reserve) on track for a June hike, but not strong enough to erase uncertainties over the future Fed funds rate's path beyond June," Rodrigo Catril, currency strategist at National Australia Bank, said in a commentary.

Despite rallies in US stocks, the lack of wage inflation in the report prompted a decline in US Treasury yields that led to the dollar slipping across the board, analysts said.

While Fed policymakers remain tight-lipped ahead of next week's rate decision, investors will have plenty to chew on in world politics in the coming days.

Comey to speak

Britain goes to the polls on Thursday still reeling from Saturday's attack that saw seven killed and 48 hurt in central London, the third attack in the country in three months.

The pound slipped to $1.2865 from $1.2889 dollars in New York.

"Britain's election looked like a shoo-in for the Prime Minister (Theresa May) but polls now have her leading by a whisker," NAB said in a separate commentary. "Escalating terrorism adds to the unease," it said.

Also on Thursday the pressure on Donald Trump's administration is likely to be thrown into sharp relief when former FBI director James Comey testifies before Congress following his dismissal by the US president.

Crude prices rose on the back of the weaker dollar, with both main oil contracts up more than one percent in the afternoon.

Daniel Hynes, an analyst in Sydney at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group, said the decision by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt to severe ties with Qatar, citing its support for terrorism, would have minimal impact on prices.

“On the face of it, it could present a risk, but I don’t think there is too much in the Qatar situation,” he told Bloomberg News. “Geopolitical risks haven’t really been that influential in recent times and I don’t think that will change too much.”

Stocks in Qatar plunged more than seven percent in early trade, while in Europe London rose 0.2 percent in early trade and Paris was flat.

Key figures around 0810 GMT

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: FLAT at 20,170.82 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.2 percent at 25,862.99 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.5 percent at 3,091.66 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.2 percent at 7,559.34

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1267 from $1.1283 at 2100 GMT on Friday

Dollar/yen: UP at 110.50 yen from 110.44 yen

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2865 from $1.2889

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP 29 cents at $47.95 per barrel

Oil - Brent North Sea: UP 31 cents at $50.26 per barrel

New York - Dow: UP 0.3 percent at 21,206.29 (close)