The Australian (GACGB10) dollar weakened against major peers and shares in Sydney dropped after private investment fell the most since 2009. Gold held a decline from a 17-week high on speculation the Federal Reserve will continue stimulus cuts while emerging-market currencies declined.
The Aussie slipped 0.4 percent versus the dollar by midday in Tokyo, while the S&P/ASX 200 Index lost 0.4 percent in Sydney, led by Qantas (QAN) Airways Ltd. and Transfield Services Ltd. Chinese shares in Hong Kong rebounded a second day, helping pare the MSCI Asia Pacific Index’s decline to 0.1 percent today. Standard & Poor’s 500 Index futures rose 0.2 percent after the U.S. measure failed to close at a record. Gold traded at $1,326.73 an ounce. A gauge of 20 developing-economy currencies dropped a second day and corn fell 0.4 percent.
Australian government bond yields dropped after data showed business investment shrank more than economists estimated in the quarter through December. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen testifies before the Senate today as the U.S. issues data on jobless claims and durable goods orders. China’s central bank drained cash in money-market operations today for the fourth time in two weeks after the benchmark rate for interbank loans dropped to a seven-month low.
“The markets are in this holding pattern again, waiting for some new developments,” Stephen Halmarick, head of investment markets research at Colonial First State Global Asset Management, which oversees about A$170 billion ($152 billion), said by phone in Sydney. “A slowdown in China, risks in other emerging markets and questions about how strong the recovery is in the U.S. are enough to keep everybody’s minds occupied.”
Technology shares led by China’s Tencent Holdings Ltd. advanced the most among the 10 industry groups on MSCI’s Asia Pacific gauge, which has gained 2.1 percent in February.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index retreated 0.4 percent as Qantas, the country’s biggest airline, slid the most since December after saying that it will cut 5,000 jobs and defer new jet purchases amid a A$252 million loss. Transfield, which supplies maintenance and operations services to miners, plunged 8.8 percent after announcing earnings.
Japan’s Topix Index fell a second day, losing 0.3 percent as real-estate companies and insurers declined. The Kospi index in Seoul was little changed.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index increased 0.6 percent as Tencent, Asia’s biggest internet company climbed to a record. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of mainland companies listed in the city added 0.3 percent, to be little changed for the month.
The Australian dollar dropped a third day, declining to 89.37 U.S. cents. Private capital expenditure in the nation contracted 5.2 percent last quarter, exceeding the 1.3 percent drop predicted by analysts polled by Bloomberg.
Ten-year Australian government debt yielded 4.05 percent, down seven basis points, or 0.07 percentage point, in the steepest decline since Feb. 14.
The S&P 500 (SPX) ended the U.S. session little changed at 1,845.16. The gauge has climbed above its closing record of 1,848.38 every day this week, only to retreat from that level by the end of the day. The index also came within six points of the record each day last week.
“We went through a snapback rally and got right back to the all-time highs,” James W. Gaul, a portfolio manager at Boston Advisors LLC, which oversees about $2.5 billion from Boston, said by phone. “Nothing has changed from a month ago, so what’s the fuel to keep pushing stocks higher?”
Fed Chair Yellen said this month that the economy can weather cuts to the country’s stimulatory bond buying program, adding that only a notable change to the economic outlook would prompt the central bank to slow the pace of tapering. More than $2.1 trillion has been added to the value of stocks worldwide this month on speculation the global economy is strong enough to withstand U.S. stimulus cuts.
Brazil’s real halted a five-day advance yesterday, before the central bank raised its target Selic rate to 10.75 percent from 10.50 percent after markets closed, halving the pace of key rate increases.
In Europe, the Ukrainian hryvnia tumbled to a record of more than 10 per dollar and Russia’s ruble sank to its lowest ever level versus the central bank’s dollar-euro basket in regular trading hours. Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered military exercises amid concern parts of Ukraine will secede following the overthrow of the president and the installation of an interim government, the Interfax news agency reported.