A man looks at an electronic board displaying graphs of various market indices outside a brokerage in Tokyo July 23, 2012. (Photo : REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao)
Asian shares rose on Tuesday as investors hunted for bargains while waiting for more economic figures from Europe and the United States later in the day, after recent data showed the euro zone's debt woes were eroding business activity globally.
Deteriorating global growth prospects, on the other hand, will keep expectations firmly in place for further stimulus steps from policymakers seeking to bolster growth, and support investor sentiment.
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The euro inched up 0.1 percent against the dollar to $1.2343 as investors unwound bets for a further euro drop amid a lack of fresh factors, although it remained firmly capped below a one-month high of $1.2444 touched on August 6.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.3 percent, while Japan's Nikkei stock average advanced 0.5 percent as domestic investors bought companies with favorable returns after a mixed earnings season.
Global equities eased on Monday, with European shares taking their sharpest fall in more than a week in thin volume.
"As long as we have a mixed bag of data, expectations for more stimulus will remain intact and keep supporting markets," said Hirokazu Yuihama, a senior strategist at Daiwa Securities.
"I think there is a growing sense that the U.S. economy is resilient. Also, with European leaders soon returning from their summer holidays, hopes remain for them to start working on steps towards next month," he added.
After last week's worrying China trade data and Monday's report showing a slowdown in Japan's economy, market participants are now eyeing the euro zone's second-quarter gross domestic product, which is expected to contract, as well as July U.S. retail sales and consumer prices due later in the day.
"Investors are sitting on the sidelines. We have had a very strong run in the market, we are in reporting season and the focus is on individual companies," said Lucinda Chan, division director at Macquarie Equities, of Australian shares, which rose 0.2 percent as investors switched into defensive stocks.
Copper and gold marked time before the data, with copper steadying at $7,400 a tonne and spot gold up 0.1 percent at $1,611.68 an ounce.
Brent crude inched down 0.2 percent to $113.36 a barrel, after rising on Monday to a three-month peak on concerns about North Sea supply and Middle East tensions. U.S. crude was barely changed at $92.75 a barrel after closing down for a second straight session on Monday.
Asian credit markets were subdued, with the spread on the iTraxx Asia ex-Japan investment-grade index flat.
LIVE IN HOPE
While growth worries weighed on broad assets and prompted investors to take profits, the hopes which underpinned recent rallies remained. Markets were still expecting the European Central Bank to start buying sovereign bonds to lower borrowing costs for Spain, and the U.S. Federal Reserve to expand its monetary easing in coming weeks.
The ECB earlier this month had suggested it could step in again to buy government bonds, but only under certain conditions.
European Union leaders, on the other hand, must await the German Constitutional Court's verdict due on September 12 to give an expected green light to the euro zone's permanent bailout fund and the fiscal pact for budget discipline.
Investors will also look for policy clues from the annual meeting of economists and central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, at the end of the month.
As markets were caught between worries and hopes, a gauge for investor risk aversion continued to improve. The CBOE Volatility index, which measures expected volatility in the Standard & Poor's 500 index over the next 30 days, closed down 7.06 percent at 13.70 on Monday, its lowest in over five years.
Analysts have said investors may be switching some funds from safe-haven bonds to stocks, underpinning prices despite a lack of fresh factors.
As hopes for more policy steps buoyed risk sentiment over the past week, yields on sovereign debts perceived as safe, including U.S. Treasuries, German bunds and Japanese government bonds have crawled back higher, away from record lows or multi-year lows marked before the optimism surfaced.