* Markets quiet with Japan on holiday
* Focus on U.S. Fed, with several officials speaking
* ECB meeting and US jobs report feature later in week
By Wayne Cole
SYDNEY, Nov 4 (Reuters) - Asian stocks eased on Monday in
sluggish trade as investors chose discretion over valour ahead
of central bank meetings in Europe and the always-critical U.S.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
was just a shade softer at 478.58. Australian
shares ended 0.4 percent lower while South Korea
lost 0.6 percent. Japanese markets were closed for a holiday.
Mainland Chinese stocks were flat with the property
sector weak after the southern city of Shenzhen was reported to
be raising the minimum down-payment on second home purchases to
stem rising prices.
"It's a slow start and people are cautious ahead of some key
events later this week," said Jackson Wong, Tanrich Securities'
vice-president for equity sales.
Major currencies were likewise mostly quiet. The dollar was
still well supported in the wake of upbeat U.S. manufacturing
data that stirred speculation the Federal Reserve might scale
back its bond-buying in December, rather than in March as many
in the market currently anticipate.
No less than four Fed officials were to make speeches on
Monday, starting with Fed Bank of Dallas President Richard
Fisher in Sydney. Fed Governor Jerome Powell and the heads of
the St. Louis and Boston Feds all appear later in the day.
Fisher took aim at the U.S. government saying an
ineffective, fractious and fiscally irresponsible government has
slowed the U.S. recovery and counteracted the stimulative
effects of Fed's super-accommodative monetary policy.
The dollar index was holding firm at 80.725 having
climbed to a six-week peak on Friday. It was also up on the yen
at 98.74 and threatening a major chart target at 99.00.
The dollar fared best against the euro which was undermined
by speculation the European Central Bank (ECB) would have to
ease again given disappointing news on unemployment and a
startlingly low inflation reading.
The common currency fell as far as $1.3442 on Monday,
before recovering to $1.3488, still well below its recent high
of $1.3832. The ECB holds a policy meeting on Thursday and will
be under intense pressure to stimulate the economy.
"We expect the opening statement, and Q&A, to have a
distinctly dovish tone," wrote analysts at RBC Capital Markets
in a note to clients.
"For now, we think that the Governing Council will refrain
from any immediate action, but we expect the downbeat tone of
next week's meeting to lay the groundwork for a policy response
over the next few months."
The Bank of England holds it policy meeting on Thursday and
is expected to stay on hold following a run of improving
economic data recently.
Another big event for markets will be Friday's U.S. payrolls
report which is expected to show a modest rise of just 125,000
in October, amid some uncertainty about the impact of the
government shut down.
A soft report, and particularly any rise in the jobless
rate, would lean against the Fed tapering in December.
Also of note will be the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP)
due on Thursday, expected to show annualised growth of 1.9
percent in the third quarter, down from 2.5 percent the previous
All the talk of Fed tapering saw U.S. Treasury yields rise
for a third straight session on Friday. Yields on the benchmark
10-year U.S. Treasury note jumped to 2.63 percent,
leaving behind the week's low of 2.47 percent.
Cash Treasuries were not trading in Asia on Monday due to
the Japanese holiday, but Treasury futures were half a
In commodity markets, prices were held back by the bounce in
the U.S. dollar. Spot gold was trading at $1,313 an
ounce, having crumbled from a peak of $1,361.60 last week.
Copper shed 0.5 percent to $7,207 a tonne.
Oil prices steadied following last week's losses as a firmer
dollar and ample supplies outweighed concerns about a drop in
Libyan crude exports.
Brent crude for December delivery was up 28 cents at $106.19
a barrel. U.S. oil for December delivery was flat