Stocks, dollar under pressure after soft US data

marketTOKYO: Shares dipped on Monday while the dollar and US bond yields fell after soft US economic data hurt investor sentiment already frayed by worries over North Korea and upcoming French elections.

That dwarfed any relief for market players after the US Treasury department did not name China as a currency manipulator, avoiding an all-out confrontation on currencies between the world’s two largest economies.

S&P 500 mini futures ESc1 dipped 0.1% to 2,325, edging near a six-week low of 2,317.75 touched in late March following US President Donald Trump’s defeat over healthcare reform.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.2% in holiday-thinned trade, while Japan’s Nikkei shed 0.4%.

The biggest focus during the Asian trading hours is China’s economic data, due at 0200 GMT, including January-March GDP.

Economists expect growth in the world’s second-biggest economy to have expanded 6.8% compared to a year earlier, the same pace as the preceding quarter.

That would be above the target of around 6.5% Beijing has set for this year’s growth, but many analysts expect momentum to fade slowly in coming months.

Barring a major shock in the China readings, markets are expected to remain focused on US data and its possible impact on the pace of interest rate hikes, and concerns over North Korea and the French presidential election.

US retail sales dropped more than expected in March while annual core inflation slowed to 2.0%, the smallest advance since November 2015, from 2.2% in February, data showed on Friday.

That helped to drive down the 10-year US Treasuries yield to 2.200%, its lowest level since mid-November from around 2.228%on Thursday before a market holiday on Friday.

The yield could now fill the chart gap between 2.150 and 2.168% made just after the US presidential election, some analysts said.

“At the moment, it is hard to see any factors that could drive up bond yields,” said Hiroko Iwaki, senior strategist at Mizuho Securities.

“And compared to US bond yields, which have given up much of their gains after the election, US share prices, having gone through a limited correction, look vulnerable given potential developments in North Korea or the French election,” she said.

Fed fund futures rose in price, now pricing less than a 50% chance of a rate hike in its June 13-14 meeting for the first time in about a month.

US President Donald Trump’s administration declined to name any major trading partner as a currency manipulator in a highly anticipated report on Friday, backing away from a key Trump campaign promise to slap such a label on China.

But the semi-annual US Treasury currency report maintained the six countries on a “monitoring list” — China, Japan, Germany, South Korea, Taiwan and Switzerland.

The dollar slipped to 108.35 yen, hitting a five-month low.

The dollar has given up three quarters of the gains it had made after the Trump’s surprise election victory had boosted expectations that his stimulus and deregulation plans would buoy U.S. growth and inflation.

The euro stood at $1.0603, little moved so far, and not far from a one-month low of $1.0570 touched last Monday, with focus on the French presidential election.

Ahead of the first round of voting on April 23, the race looked tighter. Two polls put any of the four frontrunners, including far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and hard-left challenger Jean-Luc Melenchon, within reach of a two-person run-off vote.

Gold gained 0.7 percent to hit a five-month high of $1,295.5 per ounce on continued concerns on tensions over North Korea.

The United States, its allies and China are working together on a range of responses to North Korea’s latest failed ballistic missile test, Trump’s national security adviser said on Sunday, citing what he called an international consensus to act.

The Turkish lira jumped  about 2.5%to 3.6300 per dollar versus 3.7220 on Friday after President Tayyip Erdogan snatched a victory in a referendum to grant him sweeping powers in the biggest overhaul of modern Turkish politics.