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Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Asia pauses after Wall Street peak, oil pares losses

A visitor wearing a mask is seen behind a logo of Japan Stock Exchange (JPX) at the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo December 15, 2014.  REUTERS/Yuya Shino

(Reuters) - A holiday hush settled over Asian markets on Tuesday after Wall Street closed at historic highs while oil prices recouped just a little of the losses suffered when Saudi Arabia quashed all thought of curbing supply.

A revival in risk appetite undermined the safe haven yen and kept the U.S. dollar elevated across the board, while sovereign bonds were content to sit on recent gains.

Equity investors chose to focus on the benefits that falling fuel prices would have for consumer spending power.

"Overall, we see this as a shot in the arm for the global economy," Olivier Blanchard, chief economist at the IMF, and Rabah Arezki, head of the commodities research team, wrote in their blog on Monday.

They estimated the boost to world growth would be between 0.3 and 0.7 percentage points above the Fund's baseline forecast of 3.8 percent in 2015, with the gain to China ranging from 0.4 to 0.7 percentage points.

Trading was light in Asia with Japan on holiday and markets moved only marginally. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS eased 0.3 percent.

Australian stocks ran into profit-taking after three sessions of sharp gains and slipped 1.0 percent .AXJO.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 .SPX had put on 0.38 percent to score an all-time closing high on Monday, while the Dow .DJI added 0.87 percent and the Nasdaq .IXIC 0.34 percent.

In Europe, opening gains of between 0.3 percent and 0.5 percent were projected for the FTSE .FTSE, DAX .GDAXI and CAC .FCMI. Stocks have been helped in part by further evidence the European Central Bank was set to buy euro government bonds.

Expectations the ECB will act as soon as January saw the euro touch a 2-1/2 year trough at $1.2215 on Monday and it was last trading at $1.2227 EUR=.

In contrast, the Federal Reserve remains on track to hike rates at some point in 2015 which has widened the premium offered by two-year U.S. debt to 75 basis points over German bunds, the fattest margin since early 2007. US2YT=RR

The attraction of U.S. yields lifted the dollar to 120.12 yen JPY=, leaving last week's 115.56 low as a distant memory. The dollar index .DXY reached its highest since April 2006.

The steady climb in the dollar made life miserable for gold buffs with the precious metal stuck at $1,179.61 XAU=, after falling from $1,201.80 on Monday.

Oil bulls also suffered a cruel blow when Saudi Arabia's powerful oil minister said OPEC would not cut production at any price. Ali al-Naimi said the Saudis might instead boost output to grow market share and that oil "may not" trade at $100 again.

U.S. crude CLc1 edged up 70 cents to $55.93, but remained well short of Monday's $58.53 high. Brent LCOc1 stood at $60.49 having recouped 38 cents of Monday's $1.25 fall.

There was little in the way of Asian data due on Tuesday but a full U.S. calendar includes November durable goods orders, final third-quarter GDP, home prices and inflation. ECONUS

Reference: Wayne Cole

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