Picture: 123RF/PAVEL IGNATOV
Picture: 123RF/PAVEL IGNATOV

Sydney — Asian share markets were mixed and oil prices fell on Monday as the relief that US-led strikes on Syria looked unlikely to escalate was tempered by the concern about Russia’s potential reaction to new sanctions from Washington.

With the situation in the Middle East still fluid, moves were modest and in both directions. E-mini futures for the S&P 500 nudged up 0.38%, while Japan’s Nikkei added 0.2%. Yet MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan slipped 0.4% as Chinese blue chips took an early 0.7% dip.

The US, France and Britain launched 105 missiles targeting what the Pentagon said were three chemical weapons facilities in Syria in retaliation for a suspected poison gas attack in Douma on April 7.

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on Sunday that further western attacks on Syria would bring chaos to world affairs, as Washington prepared to increase pressure on Russia with new economic sanctions.

But with President Donald Trump declaring mission accomplished, investors wagered the worst had been avoided.

"Trump was able to enforce his chemical weapons red line without crossing the threshold for Russian retaliation," analysts at JPMorgan said in a note.

"Stocks were concerned about a prolonged and expanded US campaign towards [Bashar al-]Assad and that doesn’t look probable."

Safe-haven assets eased in response, with yields on US 10-year treasury debt up two basis points at 2.84%.

The dollar was a fraction firmer on the yen at ¥107.40, up on last week’s low around ¥106.62.

Dealers were keeping a wary eye on Japanese politics after a survey showed support for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had fallen to 26.7%, the lowest since he took office in late 2012.

Abe’s sliding ratings are raising doubt over whether he can win a third three-year term as ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leader in a September vote, or whether he might even resign before the party election.

The euro was steady at $1.2330, while the dollar index eased a touch to 89.772.

Earnings and China GDP on menu

In commodity markets, gold gained 0.1% to $1,346.61/oz, but remained well short of last week’s peak at $1,365.23.

Oil prices slipped with Brent crude futures off 66c at $71.92 a barrel, while US crude fell 56c to $66.83 a barrel.

Looking ahead, the US earnings season kicks into high gear this week with Thomson Reuters data predicting profits at S&P 500 companies increased by 18.6% in the first quarter from a year ago, their biggest rise in seven years.

Yet with expectations so high, bank shares ran into profit-taking on Friday after a batch of mixed results.

In Asia, China reports its GDP for the first quarter on Tuesday with market forecasts clustered around growth of 6.7%-6.8%. The US reports retail sales later on Monday and there are about 15 Federal Reserve speakers in the diary for the week.

Also this week, the IMF will hold its spring meetings of central bankers and finance ministers in Washington.

Reuters

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