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Asia: Shares cautious ahead of China data


[SYDNEY] Asian share markets were narrowly mixed on Wednesday as investors anxiously awaited another batch of Chinese data while strength in the US dollar kept the screws on global commodity prices.

Markets will be vulnerable to any whiff of disappointment in Chinese figures on retail sales, industrial production and urban investment, particularly given recent downward surprises on inflation and trade.

Concerns about Chinese demand were evident in Japan where a Reuters survey showed confidence among manufacturers fell in November for a third straight month to levels unseen in about 2-1/2 years.

Japan's Nikkei slipped 0.3 per cent, though that follows a run of strong gains.

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MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged up 0.1 per cent having sunk to a one-month low on Tuesday. Australian stocks eked out a 0.3 per cent gain after two sessions of losses.

Wall Street offered no direction after a flat finish. The Dow ended Tuesday with a slight gain of 0.16 per cent, while the S&P 500 added 0.15 per cent and the Nasdaq eased 0.24 per cent.

Weighing on the Nasdaq, Apple shares fell 3 per cent after Credit Suisse said the iPhone maker had lowered component orders by as much as 10 per cent.

In currency markets, the euro nursed broad losses as political uncertainty in Portugal provided an excuse to sell in a market already bracing for further monetary policy easing from the European Central Bank.

The common currency last stood at $1.0733, having slid below $1.0700 for the first time in over six months.

The dollar index broke back above its post-payrolls high of 99.345 to scale a fresh seven-month peak of 99.504. It was last at 99.101.

Against the yen, the greenback fetched 123.15, holding near a 2-1/2 month peak of 123.60 set on Monday.

Yields on sovereign bonds were generally lower as soft Chinese inflation continued to point to global deflationary pressures.

Benchmark 10-year Treasury yields dipped a couple of basis points to 2.34 per cent, but remain hostage to the chance of a Fed rate hike next month. Indeed, concerns are growing that another strong payrolls report could lead to rates rising at a faster pace than was currently priced in.

The Treasury market is closed on Wednesday for Veterans Day, but Wall Street will be open.

In commodities, the rising US dollar continues to weigh on prices with zinc at its lowest in over five years.

Oil prices resumed their decline on news US crude stocks jumped last week. US crude lost 48 cents to US$43.73 a barrel, while Brent was yet to trade at US$47.44.