Asian shares fell but the euro and commodities inched higher on Thursday on investors’ lingering hopes for action from the European Central Bank later in the day, after the U.S. Federal Reserve stopped short of offering fresh stimulus overnight.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan eased 0.2 percent, but Australian shares eked out a 0.3 percent gain after data showed retail sales rose surprisingly strongly in June and the trade account improved to a small surplus in June, against a deficit forecast.
Japan’s Nikkei stock average gained 0.3 percent on ECB hopes and a weaker yen, and as investors bought back battered shares after a drop on Wednesday.
“If all goes according to expectations, 1,900 points looks well within reach, but anything short of major policy action by the ECB could trigger a heavy sell-off,” said Lee Young-gon, an analyst at Hana Daetoo Securities, referring to Korea’s benchmark stock index, which stood little changed near 1,880.
Markets have been hoping the ECB would resume its bond buying, called the Securities Market Programme (SMP), to help drive down borrowing costs for Italy and Spain which had soared to critical levels seen unsustainable for their economies.