Caution rules ahead of ECB meeting, China data

Sun Jan 18, 2015 6:59pm EST
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By Wayne Cole

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Asian share markets were looking to edge higher on Monday, though anxious investors were wary of being disappointed yet again by economic news from China and policy stimulus in the euro zone.

A holiday in the United States could make for thin conditions at the start of a week littered with major data and a crunch policy meeting for the European Central Bank.

Oil prices started with a soft tone as Brent crude futures LCOc1 eased 29 cents to $49.88, while U.S. crude CLc1 lost 31 cents to $48.38 a barrel.

Relief that Wall Street had managed to end last week with a bounce, helped Australia's main index .AXJO rise 0.8 percent. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS added 0.3 percent in early trade.

The Dow .DJI ended Friday 1.1 percent higher, while the S&P 500 .SPX gained 1.34 percent and the Nasdaq .IXIC 1.39 percent. All were still down more than 1 percent for the week.

Not so positive was data showing Chinese new home prices fell an average 4.3 percent year-on-year in 68 of the 70 major cities monitored. Yet property sales volumes were up 9 percent at the highest of the year.

That was just an appetizer to Tuesday's report on gross domestic product which is expected to show annual growth slowed to 7.2 percent last quarter, undershooting Beijing's 7.5 percent target and the weakest in 24 years.

The main event of the week will be Thursday's meeting of the ECB which is considered almost certain to see the launch of a government bond-buying campaign.   Continued...

A man is reflected on an electronic board showing Japan's Nikkei average, outside a brokerage in Tokyo January 16, 2015. REUTERS/Toru Hanai