Asia on edge, braces for China growth data

Mon Jan 19, 2015 6:34pm EST
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By Wayne Cole

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Asian markets were on edge on Tuesday ahead of data expected to show China's economy grew at the slowest pace in 24 years last quarter, adding to the case for more stimulus measures both at home and abroad.

A soft result would only magnify concerns about global demand and put further pressure on commodity prices, with oil slipping again on Monday.

Investors are already in a skittish mood after the major Chinese indices suffered their biggest one-day drop since the global financial crisis after regulators cracked down on speculative lending.

Both the Shanghai Composite Index .SSEC and the CSI300 index .CSI300 of the largest listed companies in Shanghai and Shenzhen ended Monday with losses of more than 7 percent.

Expectations are that the world's second-largest economy grew 7.2 percent last quarter, the slowest pace since the first quarter of 2009 and short of Beijing's target of 7.5 percent.

Also due are Chinese retail sales, industrial output and urban investment for December.

Early action was muted after a holiday in U.S. markets and Australia's main share index .AXJO inched into the red. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS was off 0.1 percent.

European shares had fared better on Monday amid intense speculation the European Central Bank will this week extend asset purchases to euro zone sovereign bonds, giving it greater scope to expand its balance sheet.   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