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Asia shares retreat again as China stocks' recovery short-lived

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Asian shares retreated in choppy trade on Tuesday, led by Chinese stocks, whose early rebound fizzled out as investors remained unconvinced by Beijing's moves to restore market confidence following a disastrous start to the new year.

[SYDNEY/SINGAPORE] Asian shares retreated in choppy trade on Tuesday, led by Chinese stocks, whose early rebound fizzled out as investors remained unconvinced by Beijing's moves to restore market confidence following a disastrous start to the new year.

Prospects were brighter for European shares, however, as financial spreadbetters predicted Britain's FTSE 100, Germany's DAX and France's CAC 40 will all open about 1 per cent higher.

E-Mini futures for the US S&P 500 also hinted at stabilisation with a rise of 0.2 per cent.

After a 7 per cent plunge in Chinese stocks on Monday, the Shanghai Composite index swung between positive and negative territory before closing down 0.3 per cent.

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The CSI300 index of the largest listed companies in Shanghai and Shenzhen ended the day up 0.3 per cent.

Still, the volatility weighed on the rest of the region, with MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edging down 0.3 per cent after a brief stint in positive territory.

Japan's Nikkei also gave up tentative earlier gains to end the day down 0.4 per cent. Australian shares closed 1.6 per cent lower.

An uneasy peace settled over markets after the People's Bank of China injected a generous slug of liquidity into domestic markets to keep borrowing costs down, but that didn't last long.

Analysts said 'circuit-breakers' had exacerbated selling on China's share markets on Monday, and many investors were opting to make pre-emptive sales rather than be caught out by any sudden downward turn.

"Many of China's newly introduced 'circuit-breakers' look to have only compounded panic selling yesterday as investors rushed to get their sell order out the door before they got caught in a limit-down," Angus Nicholson, market analyst at IG in Melbourne, worte in a note.

"This is no doubt present in Chinese traders' minds today, with many prepared to shoot off a ton of sell orders at the drop of a hat."

The central bank also set the value of its yuan currency a little firmer than many had expected, countering concerns China was seeking an aggressive devaluation to aid exports.

China's securities regulator said it was studying rules to regulate share sales by major holders and senior executives in listed companies.

That might indirectly address concerns that the imminent end of a six-month lockup on share sales by major institutional investors, or sale next Monday, would result in a massive institutional evacuation from stocks.

GET USED TO VOLATILITY

Yet the underlying problems had not gone away.

Surveys of manufacturers across the globe out on Monday had found activity anaemic at best, with China and the United states both surprising on the downside.

That was one reason both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq suffered their worst starts to a year since 2001.

"The price action reminds investors that the world is more connected than ever; volatility is likely here to stay, and liquidity may suffer if investor uncertainty worsens," analysts at Citi said in a note.

"Global growth and geopolitical stability remain the main sources of concern."

Policymakers seemed to share the general sense of unease.

A South Korean finance ministry official on Tuesday said the government will take action to stabilise markets if needed.

Sweden on Monday gave its central bank chief formal powers to act immediately to weaken the crown and help push up inflation, a radical step among developed world institutions.

The European Central Bank was under pressure to do yet more after German inflation proved surprisingly weak in December, pushing down bond yields and slugging the euro.

The common currency held steady around US$1.0831 on Tuesday, having touched a one-month low around US$1.0780. Against , The dollar held steady, at 98.831 against a basket of currencies and at 119.41 against the yen.

Oil prices edged up on Tuesday as investors pondered the long run implications of the rift between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Brent was quoted 0.3 per cent firmer at US$37.32 a barrel, while US crude added 0.4 per cent to US$37.90.

REUTERS

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