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Asia: Shares nervous ahead of China data

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[TOKYO] Asian shares were skittish in early on Tuesday after logging their worst month in three years and the dollar struggled as investors braced for data from China that could raise fresh fears about the health of its economy.

Losses on Wall Street also soured sentiment after comments from Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer heightened fears among investors of a potential US interest hike in September.

That shook investors who were already jumpy after weeks of wild volatility caused by concerns about the stumbling Chinese economy. US stock futures in Asia fell 1 per cent.

China's official factory sector activity likely shrank at its fasted pace in three years in August, according to a Reuters poll of economists. Similar surveys on service sector activity will also be released in the early morning.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up slightly in early trading, after shedding more than 10 per cent in the month of August, its worst monthly performance since 2012, on fears of global fallout from slowing momentum in China.

China's cooling demand is already knocking the economies of its trade-reliant Asian neighbours. South Korea reported on Tuesday its exports fell 14.7 per cent in August from a year earlier, worse than expected and the biggest drop in six years.

Japan's Nikkei stock index was down 0.9 per cent in early trade. The Nikkei lost 8.2 per cent in August, its biggest monthly decline since January 2014.

Chinese shares remained in focus, after both the Shanghai Composite Index and the CSI300 index skidded around 12 per cent in August, their third straight monthly decline.

China's stock markets have now lost nearly 40 per cent of their value since mid-June despite unprecedented government support steps. "We should see an extension of yesterday's losses in the equity market, although how Chinese markets fare is anyone's guess," IG Markets chief market strategist Chris Weston wrote in a note to clients on Tuesday.

The Australian dollar edged down ahead of its US counterpart, losing about 0.1 per cent to US$0.7108 ahead of the Reserve Bank of Australia's latest policy decision at 0430 GMT.

The RBA is considered almost certain to hold interest rates steady and some are expecting a more dovish statement from the central bank amid worries about China, which is Australia's biggest export market.

The US dollar remained under pressure as investors shunned risk and remained wary ahead of US employment data later in the week that could offer clues about the timing of the US Federal Reserve's long-awaited hike to interest rates.

The greenback was down about 0.1 per cent at 121.14 yen, while the euro rose about 0.1 per cent to US$1.1224 .

In commodities trading, crude oil futures gave back some of their biggest three-day price surge in 25 years that saw prices soar more than US$10 a barrel.

On Monday, oil jumped more than 8 per cent on downward revision of US crude production data and OPEC's expressed willingness to discuss curbs on output.

US crude slipped 3.1 per cent to US$47.70 a barrel, while Brent lost 2.8 per cent to US$52.63 a barrel.

REUTERS