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Asian shares, currencies slide after Paris attacks, data

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A pedestrian walks past a board showing various share prices on the Nikkei 225 index at the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo on Sept 17, 2015.

[HONG KONG/TOKYO] Asian stocks fell to six-week lows on Monday and emerging market currencies wilted as investors sought the safety of the greenback in the wake of Friday's attacks in Paris and downbeat economic data.

Financial spreadbetters expect Britain's FTSE 100 to open 0.70 per cent lower, Germany's DAX to open around 1.3 per cent, and France's CAC 40 to open 2.2-2.3 per cent down.

French financial markets will be open as usual on Monday, with extra security measures taken for staff, stock and derivatives exchange Euronext said.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell nearly 1.5 per cent - its biggest daily fall since Sept 29. It racked up a 3 per cent loss last week.

Leading the losers were the Nikkei stock index which tumbled nearly 1.1 per cent, nearly wiping out last week's 1.7 per cent gain as latest economic data undershot expectations.

Data released before the Tokyo market opened showed that Japan's economy slipped back into recession in the July to September quarter, contracting at a 0.8 per cent annualised rate, compared with the median estimate for a 0.2 per cent contraction.

The widely tracked CBOE volatility index or "fear gauge" was at its highest level since Oct 2. "Risk aversion is on the rise and we are seeing broad-based U.S. dollar strength across the board and this may continue until the year end as recent economic data has also disappointed," said Mitul Kotecha, head of Asian FX and rates strategy at Barclays in Singapore.

Recent economic data from China, where stock markets have recovered some of their poise after a summer collapse, has disappointed global investors.

Credit activity in China's financial system dropped to its lowest level in 15 months in October, while data last week showed steel consumption, a key measure of economic activity, slowed further.

Stock futures were pointing to another weak start on Wall Street after main indexes shed about 1 per cent in light volume in late trade on Friday. News of the attacks by gunmen and bombers that killed 132 people in the French capital came after US markets closed.

Losses for equity punters translated into gains for bond investors.

Yields on two-year U.S. Treasury debt, the part of the yield curve most sensitive to rapid changes in investor positioning, edged lower to 0.83 per cent from 0.86 per cent on Thursday, retracing part of its impressive rise from late October.

In currency markets, the euro dropped about 0.5 per cent to US$1.07205, after logging a flat performance last week.

It was down 0.5 per cent against the yen at 131.24 yen .

Losses were particularly acute for Asian currencies with the Korean won and the Indonesian rupiah among the leaders. "The spate of terrorist attacks added to USD strength," said Andy Ji, Asian currency strategist for Commonwealth Bank of Australia in Singapore, expecting emerging Asian currencies to stay weaker though the U.S. Federal Reserve may not consider the attacks in Paris at its policy meeting in December as material.

The dollar slipped about 0.1 per cent against the safe-haven yen to 122.43, while the dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major rivals, was broadly flat at 99.082.

In sign of some stability for the euro zone, Greece and its euro zone creditors reached an agreement on many issues in the reform program that Athens is implementing in return for loans, the head of euro zone finance ministers Jeroen Dijsselbloem said on Sunday.

Markets in the Middle East, which trade on Sunday, were hit hard, though part of that decline was due to last week's drop in oil prices.

Crude oil futures registered their biggest weekly loss in eight months, dropping 8 per cent on the week for their worst performance since March, as growing inventories fed into fears of oversupply.

Futures retraced some of the lost ground in early Asian trade. Brent was up 1 per cent at US$44.92 a barrel after shedding 1 per cent on Friday, while US crude was up about 0.54 per cent at US$40.96 a barrel after giving up 2 per cent.

Spot gold rose 1 per cent to US$1,094 an ounce, moving away from its low on Thursday of US$1,074.26, which was its deepest nadir since February 2010.

REUTERS