Profit taking in technology stocks pushed Asian shares slightly lower on Wednesday, though they remained near a 15-month high, while some stability in the U.S. dollar and a rise in inventories knocked oil below $79 a barrel.
Major European stocks <.FTEU3> opened modestly higher while U.S. stock futures were little changed after Wall Street slid overnight on disappointing housing data. <.N>
A recovery in demand for tech products has been unmistakable and so far earnings for the sector have held up, but dealers were prone to trim bets ahead of a heavy load of Chinese economic data on Thursday and with the MSCI IT index for Asia Pacific ex-Japan <.MIAPJIT00PUS> already up 87 percent so far this year.
Investors still favored technology shares amid a slew of positive results from U.S. tech companies, but temptation to take profits could take a toll after tech shares' recent gains, said Andrew Deng, an assistant vice president at Taiwan International Securities Corp.
The factors that have pushed global equity markets to a one-year high and knocked the U.S. dollar to a 14-month low against a basket of major currencies have not changed overnight. Still, investors were pausing to take a closer look at where bets appear stretched.
Japan's Nikkei share average <.N225> was nearly even on the day, with strength in Fast Retailing <9983.T> offset by weakness in shares of Tokyo Electron <8035.T>, the world's second-largest maker of chip equipment, and Advantest <6857.T>.
The weakness could be temporary, though. A report on Tuesday showed orders for Japanese micro chip gear outpaced sales for the sixth consecutive month in September.
Adding to the case that tech shares may have further to run, South Korea's LG Electronics <066570.KS> posted a 49 percent rise in operating profit that beat forecasts and pushed up shares 1.7 percent.
The MSCI index of Asia Pacific shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> slipped 0.5 percent, but has still risen 67 percent so far this year. On Tuesday the index hit its highest level since July 31.
Hong Kong <.HSI> and Shanghai <.SSEC> share indexes eased as traders awaited Chinese third-quarter GDP data on Thursday. A Reuters poll showed economic growth likely accelerated to 8.9 percent in the quarter from a year earlier.
Sales to China have helped boost neighboring Asian economies, partly offsetting persistently weak demand in major Western export markets.
TECH STOCKS LAG
The MSCI IT sector fell 1.6 percent, making it the biggest underperformer in the region, followed by materials and telecoms.
It is trading at a multiple of 16.3 times its earnings expected 12 months ahead, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. That is higher than the 10-year average valuation of 14.4 times.
The Thomson-Reuters index of the region's stocks <.TRXFLDAXPU> was down 0.6 percent.
In currency markets, the ICE Futures U.S. dollar index <.DXY>, based on its trade-weighted value relative to six other major currencies, was little changed on the day after hitting the lowest since early August on Tuesday.
The euro's inability on Tuesday to push above $1.50, a level that was fiercely protected by investors in options, has caused some dealers to slash their short-term bets on the common currency and wait to buy it back on the cheap.
The market is clearly still focused on exploiting interest rate differences between currencies. For example, the New Zealand dollar briefly cut its losses and shot to US$0.7500 after the central bank governor reportedly said currency strength will not prevent rate rises.
Oil traders pushed U.S. crude for November delivery down 0.3 percent to $78.84 a barrel in response to the stabilizing dollar and a report showing a bigger-than-forecast rise in U.S. oil inventories.
Brent was down 0.4 percent to $76.96 a barrel.
There is plenty of oil around at the moment and the current price is associated with tight supply so I am a little bearish and I suspect it will adjust lower, said David Moore, commodities strategist at Commonwealth Bank in Sydney.
(Additional reporting by Joan Hsu in TAIPEI and Nick Trevethan in SYDNEY)
(Editing by Kim Coghill)