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Asia Down on China Liquidity Concerns

Asian stocks tried to stabilize after a rocky November month drew to a close, but Wednesday’s session brought new anxieties as Chinese equities and commodities tanked amid worries that Beijing’s efforts to support its currency could squeeze liquidity.

Analysts said moves by China’s central bank in recent days to shore up a sliding yuan were sucking additional funds from the banking system, which is pushing up domestic borrowing costs.

"The stress could continue for a while," said Gu Weiyong, chief investment officer at hedge fund Ucom Investment Co, which specializes in fixed-income investment. "Whether the situation gets better depends on the willingness of the central bank to inject more liquidity into the system."

Coking coal and steel rebar futures prices were on track for their biggest one-day drop on record while Chinese stocks were the worst performing stock market in the region with a drop of 1%.

The decline in Chinese stocks weighed on regional markets with MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan trimming early gains to be up 0.2%. While it held near its highest levels since Nov. 11, the index was set for a second consecutive monthly drop in a sign of the uncertainty around US President-elect Donald Trump’s administration and the outlook for global growth.

European stocks are expected to edge higher in early deals.

A 6% rise in the dollar against a trade-weighted basket of currencies since Trump’s upset US election win has hammered emerging markets, as investors pulled money out in favor of US dollar-based assets on bets Trump will boost fiscal spending, growth and inflation.

More than $16 billion have been sucked out of emerging markets in the two weeks following the Nov. 8 vote but stock exchange data in India, Indonesia, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and South Korea indicate the outflows may be slowing.

"We are starting to see some pull back on the US reflation trade and stabilisation in US rates," said Fan Cheuk Wan, head of Asia investment strategy at HSBC Private Bank. Valuations also remain attractive for Asian stocks. On a price-to-book basis, MSCI Asia ex-Japan remains below a ten year median value of 1.8 times, according to Thomson Reuters data.

In currency markets, the dollar continued to take a breather against a trade-weighted basket of its peers, down 1% in the last four days. The dollar’s recent gains – 7% versus the yen and 3% against the euro – has come on the back of expectations of stepped up fiscal spending, higher inflation and a faster pace of monetary tightening by the Federal Reserve. However, market watchers say further dollar gains will be hard fought.

"The expectations phase will likely end soon as investors are focused on what the real impact of the Trump administration would be on the market," said Yoshinori Shigemi, a global market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management.

Treasury yields have edged lower after peaking at 2.42% on the ten-year benchmark bond last Friday. The curve, the gap between the ten and two year yield, has steepened by 20 basis points in the last three weeks.

Oil slumped by roughly 4% on Tuesday before bouncing somewhat as most analysts concluded the OPEC bloc would cobble together a deal in Vienna to cut production to some extent. The meeting starts at 1000 GMT. Brent futures were up 1% at $46.80 per barrel while US crude gained 0.6% to $45.50 per barrel.

A broad index of commodities was down 2%. Spot gold was up 0.4% at $1192.74 an ounce.

(Source: Reuters)