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Monday March 3, 2008 - 13:33:48 GMT
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Asian Market Update: Another Manic Monday in Asia

- Japanese and Australian Itraxx credit default swap indices moved to new record highs, hurting Asian financials and boosting risk aversion among investors. USD/JPY declined from 103.80 to 103.00, and traders heard rumors of Japanese quasi-governmental entities buying all the way down after stops below 103.70 were tripped. Option related bids ahead of 103.00 also helped to support the USD/JPY, but some chartists point out that there isn''t any solid support until the August 2005 low around 101.65. Traders note a lot of long USD positions were built on the assumption that semi-official names would support the pair around 105.00, but this support did not materialize, and we could see more USD/JPY losses if longs are forced to bail out. Japan''s officials didn''t signal any concern about JPY strength, leading to more JPY buying as the Asian morning progressed. Nukaga, an official from the Ministry of Finance, said that it is not appropriate to comment on forex levels. Between 17:00 ET and 23:18 ET: USD/JPY -0.60%, GBP/JPY -0.83%, EUR/JPY -0.41%, AUD/JPY -0.43%

- As is usually the case, AUD/JPY selling dragged on AUD/USD. AUD/JPY support is seen at 95.15 (top of Ichimoku cloud), while AUD/USD support is seen at 0. 9250 (the Feb 26 low, trend line support, stops seen below this level). Despite EUR/JPY selling, EUR/USD traded higher, but some traders feel EUR could take a knock this week if ECB president acknowledges the deepening credit crunch and the recent signs of softness in European economic data. The KRW hit its lowest level in more than two years against the JPY, but USD/KRW is expected to remain well supported on exporter buying.

- Analysts say company profits and inventories data did little to alter expectations for Q4 GDP data due out later this week: (AU Q4 COMPANY OPERATING PROFITS QOQ: 3.9% V 2.0% expected, -1.4% prior; INVENTORIES: 0.7% V 1.0% expected, 1.3% prior) JP Morgan economist Helen Kevans said the profits data signalled ongoing growth for Australian companies. "On the downside, though, firms have accumulated inventories for the past four quarters, meaning that working capital is being tied up, and that firms have possibly overestimated demand," she said.

- Equities: At 22:58 ET Japan''s Nikkei is -3.84% (but stays above 13,000), the S&P/ASX200 is -2. 92% (remains above 5,400), South Korea''s KOSPI is -2.80% and China''s Shanghai Composite Index is +1.77%. The S&P futures contract lost -0.47%, last trading around 1,325.10. The firming JPY hurt valuations of Japanese exporters and automakers, and steelmakers traded sharply lower on reports that Nippon Steel will miss its profit forecast. Investors dumped Australian financials, but resource stocks provided some mild support for the benchmark index. Allco Finance traded down by more than -20% after three company executive directors resigned, and Harvey Norman was dragged down by a rating downgrade at UBS. There was some M&A news announced during the Australian session, with Zinifex trading sharply higher after Oxiana offered to pay a 14% premium to merge. Leading decliners in Seoul include Korean airlines, financials and exporters. Chinese equities rebounded on reports that China''s Congress would discuss steps to help the stock market, with investors rushing to buy shares of airlines and banks.

- Commodities: Spot gold moved to a fresh record high in Asia (around $983/oz) as the USD fell to a record low against a basket of currencies. Nymex crude remained near levels seen at the end of last week, losing -0. 06% between 18:00 ET and 23:08 ET, last trading around $101.78/bbl. Libya''s oil minister said that OPEC is expected to leave output unchanged at its upcoming meeting, while PetroEcuador said that it expected its recently damaged pipeline to start pumping oil on Monday. Spot gold gained +0.79%.


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