Asia stocks pause at three-year peak, earnings test looms

Reuters
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By Wayne Cole

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Asian stocks tracked sideways on Tuesday as Wall Street turned cautious ahead of the corporate reporting season while earnings guidance from regional tech heavyweight Samsung came in well short of forecasts.

Investors could also be forgiven for feeling a touch of altitude sickness after many indexes recently hit all-time or multi-year peaks.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was a fraction firmer at a three-year high of 502.11 but shied away from tough resistance around the 2011 top of 512.12.

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd said its operating profit probably fell 24.5 percent in April-June to 7.2 trillion won ($7.12 billion), under the 8.3 trillion mean estimate from 38 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

Its shares, however, still managed to edge up 0.2 percent, perhaps because they have been falling for most of the past month as the market priced in a poor result.

Japan's Nikkei followed Wall Street's lead and fell 0.4 percent, failing to sustain last week's six-month high.

Indonesian stocks enjoyed a second session of solid gains as investors look for a lessening in political uncertainty after Wednesday's presidential election.

In Europe, spreadbetters predicted the FTSE 100, DAX and CAC 40 would all open a shade higher.

On Monday, the Dow had lost 0.3 percent, while the S&P 500 shed 0.4 percent and the Nasdaq 0.8 percent.

Wall Street hit a number of milestones last week, with the Dow topping 17,000 for the first time and the S&P 500 closing at a record high after a strong June jobs report.

The earnings season kicks off with Alcoa later on Tuesday and dozens of major companies are scheduled to report next week, including numerous Dow components.

Profits are forecast to grow 6.2 percent for the quarter, according to Thomson Reuters data, but investors see a slight chance of a return to double-digit growth for the first time in nearly three years.

DOLLAR FADES

Markets are also on guard for minutes of the Federal Reserve's last meeting to be released on Wednesday, which will be scoured for hints on when the policy committee might consider raising interest rates.

Some analysts have brought that day forward following June's upbeat payrolls report. Yet most assume a move is still a whole year away, too distant to trouble Treasury investors right now.

Yields on 10-year paper were at 2.6190 percent, having retraced all of Thursday's spike to 2.69 percent.

The lack of a sustained increase in yields sapped the strength of the U.S. dollar, which lapsed back to 101.83 yen from a peak of 102.21. The dollar index traded at 80.254, off a 1-1/2-week high of 80.359.

That helped the euro pop back above $1.3600, recovering from a low of $1.3576 hit on Monday when Germany reported a surprisingly steep 1.8 percent drop in industrial output.

There was little in the way of major Asian data on Tuesday, but top Chinese and U.S. officials, including U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, will hold talks in Beijing on July 9-10.

They will discuss the yuan's value as well as the impact of U.S. monetary policy, Chinese Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao said on Monday.

In commodity markets, gold was steady at $1,317.80 an ounce, having held to a relatively tight $1,305.90 to $1,332.10 range for the past two weeks.

Oil prices extended their recent decline as events in Iraq and Ukraine have so far not led to any serious disruption in flows. Brent dipped 24 cents to $110.00 a barrel and U.S. oil lost 4 cents to $103.49 a barrel.

(Editing by Alan Raybould and Richard Borsuk)

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