Asia shares subdued, euro steady before ECB

Tue Oct 20, 2015 7:27pm EDT
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By Wayne Cole

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Asian equities got off to a sluggish start on Wednesday as concerns about corporate earnings hobbled Wall Street while investors counted down to the European Central Bank's policy meeting later in the week.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS drifted off 0.07 percent. Australian stocks .AXJO lost 0.2 percent as worries about China weighed on commodity prices.

There was little in the way of a lead from Wall Street where the Dow .DJI ended Tuesday 0.1 percent lower, while the S&P 500 .SPX eased 0.14 percent and the Nasdaq .IXIC 0.5 percent.

The S&P healthcare sector .SPXHC shed 1.5 percent, dragged by Allergan (AGN.N: Quote) and Pfizer (PFE.N: Quote), while a drop in IBM offset gains in companies that reported strong quarterly results such as Verizon (VZ.N: Quote) and United Technologies (UTX.N: Quote).

Earnings for S&P 500 companies are expected to have fallen about 4 percent in the third quarter, while revenue is expected to have declined 3.8 percent, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Economic news from the United States was moderately upbeat as housing starts increased 6.5 percent in September to an annual pace of 1.21 million units, beating expectations for 1.15 million units.

There was also better news on bank lending in the euro zone as data from the ECB showed a further easing in credit conditions and improving demand for loans.

That might lessen the need for the ECB to immediately ramp up its 1 trillion euro asset purchase program.   Continued...

Passersby are reflected on a screen displaying  stock quotation, the stock market indices of various countries (bottom R) and exchange rates (top R) at a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, September 29, 2015. REUTERS/Issei Kato