• Asian investors cautious ahead of Fed speech

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    HONG KONG: Asian markets retreated on Tuesday as investors returned to trading floors after the long Easter break, with attention turning to a speech by US Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen later in the day.

    After a broadly upbeat month across all asset classes—which saw healthy gains after the sharp sell-offs of January and February—investors also looked to cash in before closing their positions by the end of the financial year.

    A string of easing measures from central banks around the world provided some much-needed support over March. There are also hopes Yellen will shed some light on the Fed’s thinking on its interest rate policy in her speech in New York Tuesday.

    A recent series of strong US data—including Friday’s better than forecast fourth-quarter growth—raised the prospect of a lift sometime soon, although disappointing inflation and consumer spending figures Monday dampened expectations again.

    Tokyo’s Nikkei closed 0.2 percent down, while Hong Kong gave up 0.3 percent in the afternoon and Shanghai finished 1.3 percent lower. Sydney shed 1.6 percent and Singapore was also lower.

    The uneasy start to the week came after a largely positive but soft lead from Wall Street.

    “Much of Wall Street’s rebound, and indeed that of global markets, over the last five weeks has been driven by expectations for continued policy accommodation from the world’s central banks,” Matthew Sherwood, head of investment strategy at Perpetual in Sydney, told Bloomberg News.

    “It is no surprise that the market rally is showing signs of fatigue. A weak recovery despite record stimulus remains a tough environment for risk markets.”

    Also on the agenda this week is the release Friday of a US jobs report that will give further insight into the state of the world’s top economy.

    Oil prices this month have predominantly seen strong gains—breaking above $40 at one point—on hopes of a deal to freeze output. But they edged down again Tuesday, with US benchmark West Texas Intermediate 0.8 percent lower and Brent shedding 0.9 percent.

    Analysts said the ongoing supply glut that has scythed prices since mid-2014 as well as weak demand continue to weigh on the commodity, while a report this week is expected to show another rise in US stockpiles.

    AFP

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