Asian shares slip, dollar steady as Fed policy shift looms

Reuters
Investors monitor stock market prices in Kuala Lumpur August 16, 2013. REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad/Files
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Investors monitor stock market prices in Kuala Lumpur August 16, 2013. REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad/Files

By Lisa Twaronite

TOKYO (Reuters) - Asian shares slipped slightly and the dollar treaded water on Tuesday, as global markets braced for the outcome of the U.S. Federal Reserve's two-day policy meeting at which it is widely expected to begin withdrawing stimulus.

Despite a lacklustre August jobs report, the U.S. central bank is expected to begin scaling back its quantitative easing scheme by reducing its monthly asset purchases by about $10 billion from the current $85 billion.

"If the Fed fails to deliver, it will reinforce the criticism about the Fed's communication effectiveness," strategists at Brown Brothers Harriman said in a note to clients.

"Yet if the Fed tapers and demonstrates that its communication has indeed been effective as the majority of market participants correctly anticipated the tapering, it risks repeating its previous mistakes when it ended previous QE operations prematurely," they said.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell about 0.1 percent, with Japan's Nikkei stock average up 0.2 percent after Japanese markets were closed on Monday for a public holiday.

Japanese shares caught up to news that former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers unexpectedly withdrew from consideration for the U.S. central bank's top job on Monday. Summers was seen as more prone to wind down stimulus than the new front-runner, Fed Vice Chairwoman Janet Yellen.

The U.S. dollar index slipped slightly to 81.277, after falling to a low of 80.968 on Monday, its lowest level since August 21, following the Summers news.

The dollar was up about 0.1 percent against its Japanese counterpart at 99.14 yen, while the euro was nearly flat from U.S. levels at $1.3334, after it hit a more than two-week high of $1.3385 in the previous session.

The Australian dollar was down from a three-month high of $0.9387 touched on Monday, slipping slightly on the day to $0.9311 ahead of the release of the Reserve Bank of Australia's minutes of its September3 policy meeting. The central bank kept the cash rate unchanged at 2.5 percent.

Easing tension in Syria continued to underpin investors' risk tolerance, after Russia and the United States reached a deal on Saturday to remove Syrian President Bashar al Assad's chemical arsenal and possibly avert U.S. military action against him.

U.N. chemical investigators on Monday confirmed the use of sarin nerve agent in an August 21 poison gas attack outside the Syrian capital.

On the commodities front, three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange fell 0.2 percent to $7,072.25 a tonne. It dropped to a five-week low of $7,024 a tonne on Friday, as investor appetite for risk improved on expectations of a diplomatic solution to the Syria crisis and the dollar fell.

Gold was down slightly at $1,313.01 an ounce.

Brent crude for delivery in November fell by 0.5 percent to $109.53 a barrel, moving further away from the six-month high of $117.34 a barrel reached in late August on worries about a possible U.S. military strike against Syria.

(Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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