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Asia shares hover near two-month low as growth, U.S. policy risks sap sentiment

TOKYO (Reuters) – Asian shares held close to a two-month low on Thursday as softer oil and copper as well as U.S. policy uncertainty kept sentiment in check, while high-tech stocks struggled to recover after a searing sell-off.

An investor looks at an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Shanghai, China November 24, 2017. REUTERS/Aly Song

Investors are looking to the final tax legislation in the United States, where a potential U.S. government shutdown looms if Congress fails to agree on a spending package. There are also fears of a violent backlash in the Middle East from President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS was barely changed in early trade, still hovering near a two-month low touched the previous day. From its 10-year peak hit on Nov. 23, it has slipped 4.6 percent.

Japan’s Nikkei .N225 gained 1.2 percent after having suffered its biggest fall since late March on Wednesday.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe .MIWD00000PUS hit a two-week low on Wednesday while Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index .SPX edged down for its fourth straight session of losses.

“I would say markets are going through a healthy correction after their rallies during the past three months, or six months. I don’t think we need to panic,” said Hirokazu Kabeya, chief global strategist at Daiwa Securities.

A relentless selloff in U.S. technology shares, which has pressured global equities in recent weeks, subsided somewhat with S&P technology shares .SPLRCT bouncing slightly 0.75 percent.

The energy sector dragged the U.S. market lower overnight as oil prices dropped.

Oil prices flirted with two-week lows after its big fall on Wednesday, when a sharp rise in U.S. inventories of refined fuel suggested demand may be flagging, while U.S. crude production hit another weekly record.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures CLc1 traded at $56.10 per barrel, up 0.25 percent in early Asian trade but not far off Wednesday’s low of $55.87.

The price of copper, seen as barometer of global economic health because of its extensive industrial use, also fell sharply earlier this week, raising worries about the world growth outlook.

“When you look at growth in China’s industrial output and copper price over the last 10 years, you could say that copper still looks a bit expensive. I wouldn’t be surprised to see further drop in copper if investors grow wary of the possibility of slowdown in China’s output,” said Makoto Noji, senior strategist at SMBC Nikko Securities.

Copper CMCU3 closed at $6,550 a tonne on Wednesday, not far from its two-month low of $6,507.5 touched on Tuesday.

In the currency market, the euro EUR= fetched $1.1803, having slipped to a two-week low of $1.1780 on Wednesday.

The dollar eased to 112.27 yen JPY=, slipping further from Monday’s high of 113.09, which was its highest level in more than two weeks.

Bitcoin soared to a new record high, rising to $14,047 BTC=BTSP on cryptocurrency exchange Bitstamp.

On the other hand, silver XAG= extended its decline since late last month to hit a near five-month low of $15.94 per ounce.

Editing by Shri Navaratnam

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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