LONDON (Reuters) - Uncertainty about the timing of a cut in Federal Reserve stimulus and the fine print of economic reforms in China kept global markets under pressure on Wednesday.
Emerging Asian currencies and the region’s shares took fresh beating overnight in the wake of mixed signals from Fed officials about the U.S. central bank’s asset-buying stimulus.
Victims including the Indian rupee and the Indonesian rupiah, looked to have stabilized in early trading in Europe, whose debt and currency markets were mostly little changed.
But the mood in the region remained jittery and some riskier assets lost ground.
London’s FTSE .FTSE led European shares .FTEU3 0.5 percent lower as a drop in UK unemployment left traders eying a Bank of England inflation report at 1030 GMT for signals regarding the BoE’s pledge of ultra-low rates.
Sterling popped up and the FTSE extended losses to 0.9 percent following the data.
But with a crucial hearing for Fed chair-in-waiting Janet Yellen and European third quarter growth figures both due on Thursday, the dollar .DXY and the euro as well as Europe’s bond markets were by and large in a holding pattern.
“We are pausing,” said National Australia Bank strategist Gavin Friend. “Any nuggets Yellen gives on her policy leaning are going to be extremely closely scrutinized. And if Q3 euro zone GDP surprises on the downside that could give the euro a kick.”
The worry investors have is that if the Fed starts winding down its huge ,stimulus global borrowing costs will rise, and as the return on developed market assets such as bonds rises, emerging markets will lose their attraction and suffer.
Earlier, Jakarta’s Composite Index .JKSE stumbled 2 percent to a two-month low as the rupiah hit its weakest in more than four-and-a-half years despite the central bank’s surprise rate hike in the previous session.
The Indian rupee also slumped, hitting a two-month low after surging consumer prices sparked fears the central bank would continue to raise interest rates and undermine economic growth at a particularly vulnerable time for the currency.
The Reserve Bank of India is likely to have stepped in to prop up the rupee via state-run banks, to keep it from falling further, traders said. It will hold a news conference later.
“Pockets of firm U.S. data will reignite QE (quantitative easing) tapering concerns, pulling the dollar higher and vulnerable Asian currencies lower,” said Radhika Rao, economist with DBS in Singapore.
“After a brief respite, the headwinds for the Indian rupee are back to the fore.”
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS lost about 1.4 percent to reach its lowest levels in more than a month, on track to mark a fifth straight decline. Japan’s Nikkei stock average .N225 ended down 0.2 percent.
Chinese shares were some of the biggest underperformers after the initial communique from a Communist Party policy meeting to set an economic blueprint for the coming decade offered few details.
The China Enterprises Index .HSCE of the top Chinese listings in Hong Kong was down more than 2 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index .HSI fell 1.4 percent.
EURO STAYS ABOVE ECB-TRIGGERED LOWS
The dollar wobbled but stuck close to recent ranges. It was off about 0.1 percent at 99.45 yen after rising as high as 99.79 yen on Tuesday, its strongest level since September 13. The dollar index .DXY inched down about 0.1 percent to 81.142.
Talk of cutting Fed stimulus in December from Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart was countered by Narayana Kocherlakota, president of the Minneapolis Fed, who called for aggressive action to foster growth.
The euro was slightly lower from Asian levels at $1.3430, but holding well above lows set last week, when it suffered a heavy selloff after the European Central Bank cut its main rate early than had been expected.
The common currency traded well above the two-month low of $1.3295 hit on Thursday, but still down nearly 3 percent from a two-year peak of $1.3833 set last month.
In commodities markets, gold gained 0.4 percent to $1,275.69 an ounce but remained not far from the previous session’s four-week low.
U.S. crude for December delivery edged up to $93.30 a barrel after flirting with 4-1/2 month lows, while the benchmark three-month copper contract fell 1.11 percent to $7,040 a metric ton.
Reporting by Marc Jones; Editing by John Stonestreet