GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian shares rise, oil off highs; still cautious on Syria

Last Updated: Thu, Aug 29, 2013 06:00 hrs

* Asian shares bounce from sharp losses, Nikkei up

* Oil retreats from 6-month peak, gold off 3-1/2 month high

* Indonesia cenbank seen lifting rates to defend currency

By Dominic Lau

TOKYO, Aug 29 (Reuters) - Asian shares recouped some of the two previous sessions' steep losses on Thursday as fears abated that U.S.-led forces would soon launch a military strike on Syria, and oil prices retreated from a six-month peak.

Emerging market currencies stabilised after their recent battering, with the Indian rupee coming off a record low after the central bank moved to provide dollars directly to oil companies, offering the currency some relief.

Indonesia's rupiah steadied near a four-year low with the board of Bank Indonesia expected to announce an increase in its policy rates after a hastilly-called meeting to defend the plunging currency.

The bounce in stocks and emerging market currencies could be short-lived, however, with investors remaining on edge as the United States sketched out plans for multinational air strikes on Syria that could last for days.

"We assume that NATO military action is still the likely scenario even if relatively limited in scope. Until there is more clarity, our bias is to keep positioning low at the moment," strategists at BNP Paribas said in a note.

European shares were expected to open slightly weaker, with Britain's FTSE 100 seen down around 0.1 percent and Germany's DAX down around 0.2 percent ahead of consumer price data, according to financial spreadbetters.

Brent crude prices fell 0.7 percent below $116 a barrel after climbing 2.6 percent to a six-month high on Wednesday on concerns that any Western military strike could prompt retaliation and disrupt crude supply in the Middle East region, which pumps a third of the world's oil.

Gold eased 0.5 percent to around $1,410 an ounce after gaining 1.2 percent to a 3-1/2 month high in the previous session's flight to safety.


U.S. stocks rose overnight as energy shares rallied on the back of higher oil prices.

"Wall Street's rebound will provide enough push for the market to regain some of the previous sessions' losses," said Dongbu Securities analyst Lee Eun-taek.

This helped soothe nerves in Asia, with MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan up 1 percent after falling 2.2 percent in the previous two sessions.

But in a negative sign, companies' earnings momentum on the MSCI Asian gauge deteriorated further to minus 8.7 percent from minus 7.1 percent in July, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Japan's Nikkei share average advanced 0.8 percent in light trade, helped by the safe-haven yen giving up some of the recent gains that had taken it to a three-week high against the dollar.

The paring of yen positions also helped the euro edge off a 1-1/2 week low. The dollar last bought 97.70 yen, having risen from 96.81, while the euro traded at 130.105 yen , up from 129.66.


Emerging markets, which have been battered by the rising geopolitical tensions as well as an expected reduction in stimulus measures by the U.S. Federal Reserve, possibly as soon next month, stabilised somewhat on Thursday.

The Indian rupee firmed 1.7 percent from a record low. But analysts said central bank measures alone would not lead to a sustained rupee recovery unless the government can pass measures that convince markets of its willingness to tackle India's fiscal and current account deficits and slowing growth.

"The measure is unlikely to arrest the decline in the rupee with the authorities increasingly trying to find new means to stem the rout in the currency," Mitul Kotecha, head of global markets research for Asia at Credit Agricole in Hong Kong, wrote in an email to clients.

Overnight, Brazil raised its benchmark interest rate to a 16-month high of 9 percent in part to help shore up its currency.

The Indonesian rupiah edged up 0.1 percent on Thursday, though not too far from its lowest since April 2009, while Jakarta shares added 0.4 percent and Indonesia's five-year credit default swaps, insurance-like contracts to hedge against debt default, tightened by about 10 basis points to 272/290 basis points.

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