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Asia: Stocks open lower on fears over US growth


[TOKYO] Asian markets opened lower on Monday, following Wall Street's downbeat finish last week on fears that US economic growth has peaked, and with investors watching the Bank of Japan's meeting.

On Friday, data showed the US economy expanded at an annual rate of 4.1 per cent in the second quarter, matching analyst expectations.

The rise was due in part to strong consumer spending and a trade-war driven bump in exports. It was the fastest growth in almost four years.

But despite US President Donald Trump hailing the figure as an "American economic miracle", US investors were unimpressed, sending stocks lower on a sense that the figures represent a peak.

US shares also took a battering from a largely disappointing round of earnings, with Exxon Mobil, Intel and Twitter all falling.

In Asia stocks trading Monday, Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index opened down 0.46 per cent, while the broader Topix index slipped 0.26 per cent.

Investors are closely watching the Bank of Japan's two-day meeting starting Monday, with widespread speculation about whether the central bank may be looking to alter its ultra-loose monetary policy.

Reports earlier this month suggested minor changes were possible in the bank's bond-buying programme, as it seeks to offset its effects on the banking sector.

The BOJ has engaged in massive bond-buying as part of a programme to push the country's inflation rate up to 2.0 per cent, seen as necessary to turbocharge the world's third-largest economy.

But the goal has proved stubbornly elusive and experts said the BoJ might reset expectations on when it could be achieved.

"The BOJ will most likely dole out a plan for eventually adjusting stimulus," wrote Stephen Innes, head of APAC trading at Oanda.

He cited a report suggesting the bank would revise its inflation forecast down, and "forgo any immediate yield curve measure".

China's stock markets also opened lower as the yuan continued to weaken, with the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index opening down 0.06 per cent, though it picked up.

Markets in Sydney and Seoul also opened lower.

In currency trading, the dollar was rangebound after the US GDP data announcement and with investors focused on monetary policy meetings by the BOJ and other central banks this week.

"It's going to be a 'central-bank' week... and the market is paying close attention to the BOJ," said Masakazu Satou, senior analyst at Gaiame Online.

"I don't think the BOJ will change its policy dramatically, but it may send a message indicating its willingness to mitigate the negative impact of the current policy," Mr Satou told AFP.


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