Asia stocks slip, dollar underpinned by yield premium
SYDNEY - Asian shares slipped on Thursday after Wall Street suffered a mild setback after weeks of gains, while the dollar stayed in demand as U.S. government debt offered everfatter premiums over euro zone bonds.
Japan's Nikkei lost 0.7 percent, edging away from its recent one-year top. Australia's main index eased 0.4 percent, having touched a 17-month peak the previous d ay.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was off a slight 0.1 percent.
The pullback on Wall Street came amid light volumes and likely reflected caution about what the New Year might bring, given Wednesday was the first session when trades actually settle in January.
The Dow fell 0.56 percent, while the S&P 500 lost 0.84 percent and the Nasdaq 0.89 percent. Boeing fell 0.9 percent after Delta Air Lines canceled a $4-billion order for 18 Dreamliner aircraft.
Technology was the largest weight on major indexes, with Nvidia down 6.9 percent after short seller Citron Research said the market was overlooking the headwinds for the stock - which had earlier touched a record high.
Weak home sales data were blamed for some of the selling, though normally this series barely gets a mention in markets.
Contracts to buy previously-owned U.S. homes fell in November to their lowest level in nearly a year, a hint of how rising mortgage rates could weigh on the housing market.
The soft report combined with surprisingly strong demand for a sale of new five-year Treasury notes to give U.S. bonds a rare rally. Yields on 10year paper fell to their lowest levels in two weeks to around 2.503 percent.
Yet euro zone yields were also falling on concerns about the strength of a rescue plan for Italian banks and normal year-end caution.
Germany's 10-year yields hit their lowest in seven weeks at 0.181 percent, while their discount to Treasury yields hit the widest on record.
The ever-widening yield gap kept the euro on the defensive around $1.0424, after touching an eight-session trough of $1.0372. Sterling was also soft at $1.2226 after hitting its lowest in two months.
The dollar was sidelined on the yen at 117.00 having spent the last seven sessions caught b et w een 116.84 and 117.88.
In commodity markets, oil came off the boil after data showed a surprise build in U.S. crude inventories. U.S. crude eased 42 cents to $53.64 a barrel, while Brent was last quoted down 16 cents at $55.93.