Asia shares sluggish, oil drifts lower

Sun Mar 29, 2015 7:46pm EDT
 
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By Wayne Cole

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Asian markets got off to a sluggish start on Monday in a week book ended with Easter holidays across the globe and a U.S. jobs report that could impact the timing of the first hike in interest rates there.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was off 0.2 percent. Australia's main index lost 0.8 percent amid weakness in commodity prices.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on Friday reaffirmed that rates would likely start rising later this year but emphasized the pace of tightening would be gradual and data dependent.

The conditional outlook helped nudge longer-dated Treasury yields lower and left the dollar listless for the moment. It fetched 119.22 yen on Monday, just a whisker higher than at the end of last week and short of the near eight-year peak of 122.04 set early this month.

The euro was little changed at $1.0886, having in the last two weeks pulled up from a 12-year trough of $1.0457.

On Wall Street the Dow ended Friday up 0.19 percent, while the S&P 500 gained 0.24 percent and the Nasdaq 0.57 percent.

Shares in Intel Corp jumped on reports it was in talks to buy rival Altera Corp, sending the PHLX semiconductor index up 2.8 percent.

Oil had retreated 5 percent on Friday as Yemen's conflict looked less likely to disrupt Middle East crude shipments and investors turned their focus to talks for a potential Iran nuclear deal that could put more supply on the market.   Continued...

 
An employee of the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) looks at a stock quotation board as he works at the bourse at TSE in Tokyo March 13, 2015. REUTERS/Yuya Shino