Euro slips after German election, stocks ease

By @ibtimes on

The euro slipped on Monday after German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives were routed in elections in a key state, while Asian shares fell as turmoil in the Middle East and Japan's nuclear crisis left investors with little appetite for riskier assets.

European shares <.EU> also were set to dip in early trade, though U.S. stock index futures pointed to a possibly firmer opening on Wall Street later in the day.

Investors in Asia booked profits on bank shares in Hong Kong, computer maker stocks in Taiwan and in mining shares in Australia, weighing on the region's equity markets after those sectors racked up solid gains over the last week.

However, most analysts reckoned Asian stock markets would bounce back on foreign demand after the first quarter and Japan's fiscal year comes to a close later this week.

There's still room to rise as foreign buying on dips is likely to continue, although trading may be directionless before the end of the fiscal year, said Hajime Nakajima, a wholesale trader at Cosmo Securities in Tokyo.

Japan's Nikkei <.N225> finished down 0.6 percent. Shares elsewhere in Asia were mainly weaker, with MSCI's index of Asian shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> easing 0.4 percent.

GERMAN ELECTION HURTS EURO

Merkel's Christian Democrats lost power on Sunday in the rich state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, where a rush of anti-nuclear sentiment following Japan's nuclear crisis mobilized voters against the party, which has been supportive of nuclear power.

The loss of the regional stronghold could limit Merkel's ability to pass legislation as her coalition center-right government deals with nuclear power, military action in Libya and the euro zone debt crisis.

While erosion of Merkel's clout at home weighed on the euro, prospects of a European Central Bank rate was an important element holding up the single currency, Gibbs said.

Clearly risks are rising, but not sufficient to tip the euro over the edge yet. There's also a range of support on the way down, it's not going to collapse even if it falls through $1.40, said Greg Gibbs, a strategist at RBS in Sydney.

The euro last traded at $1.4061, compared with $1.4065 late in New York on Friday. Early in the session, it was marked down to around $1.4020.

Along with its gains versus the euro, the dollar firmed against the yen, helped by Friday's comments from a U.S. central bank official who said the Federal Reserve is poised in the not-too-distant future to begin rolling back its super loose monetary policy to avert inflation.

Easier U.S. policy has helped boost global financial markets by flooding them with cheap money in search of higher returns, though it has also added to inflationary pressures in emerging economies.

The U.S. dollar last traded at 81.70 yen, up from 81.43 late Friday in New York.

Further Western air strikes in Libya and tension in Syria, Yemen and Bahrain continued to fuel investor uneasiness over supply disruptions from the oil-rich Middle East and from North Africa, supporting so-called safe havens such gold.

Spot gold was last at $1,423.49 an ounce, down from Friday and below a record high of $1,447.40 reached on March 24. It still up about 2 percent since March 15.

U.S. crude oil futures fell 30 cents to $105.09 a barrel and Brent crude was down 26 cents at $115.33.

(Reporting by Ian Chua in SYDNEY, Ayai Tomisawa and Natsuko Waki in TOKYO, Cho Mee-young in SEOUL and Rujun Shen in SINGAPORE; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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