Asian shares sag, dollar steadies

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TOKYO (Nov 5): Asian shares wilted on Wednesday as oil prices extended losses after weak economic data from China, while the dollar took a breather after this week's rally.

Investors warily tracked U.S. election results, in which Republicans made major gains and were set to capture control of the Senate in a midterm vote that could serve as a public referendum on President Barack Obama's job performance.

S&P E-mini futures rose 0.3 percent. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down about 0.3 percent, while Japan's Nikkei stock average was flat.

Services sector growth in China weakened in October as new business cooled, a private survey showed, coming just days after previous data revealed sluggish factory growth in the world's second largest economy. The data reinforced signs of a gradual slowdown that could prod Beijing to unveil fresh stimulus measures.

Crude prices tumbled to multi-year lows on Tuesday on news top oil exporter Saudi Arabia cut its U.S. sales prices.

U.S. crude futures edged down to $77.15 a barrel in Asia after reaching the lowest intraday price since October 2011 after the Saudi move. Brent fell 0.4 percent to $82.50.

"The market is already soft for Brent and the Chinese data is not going to help," said Avtar Sandu, senior manager for commodities at Phillip Futures.

The dollar steadied after an earlier dip as investors locked in profits after this week's rally, while a Reuters report saying central bankers in the euro zone plan to challenge European Central Bank President Mario Draghi's leadership style underpinned the euro.

Some members intend to raise their concerns with Draghi at the governors' traditional informal working dinner on Wednesday before the ECB's formal monthly rate-setting meeting on Thursday, the sources interviewed by Reuters said.

"We do not expect further easing at Thursday's ECB meeting but it may give more insight into its new asset purchase programmes," strategists at Barclays said.

On Wall Street on Tuesday, the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite ended lower after the big drop in oil prices, while the Dow Jones industrial average eked out a small gain, with energy shares under pressure from low oil prices.

U.S. data on Tuesday revealed a surprise widening of the trade deficit last month, which raised speculation that the initially reported 3.5 percent pace of third-quarter U.S. growth could be revised down. That in turn could reduce the likelihood that the U.S. Federal Reserve would hike interest rates in 2015.

The Commerce Department said the trade deficit grew 7.6 percent to $43.03 billion, compared with a forecast of $40.00 billion among analysts polled by Reuters.

The data increased the safe-haven appeal of U.S. Treasury notes, pushing down the benchmark 10-year yield and weighing on the dollar. The yield stood at 2.331 percent in Asia, down from its U.S. close of 2.342 percent on Tuesday, when it fell as low as 2.303 percent.

The dollar index was steady on the day at 86.995, after moving away from its four-year high of 87.406 touched on Monday.

The dollar was buying 113.91 yen, up 0.3 percent but well below a seven-year peak of 114.21 hit on Monday.

The euro edged up about 0.1 percent to $1.2559, moving off a two-year low of $1.2439 set on Monday and shrugging off downbeat data after the ECB news.

The European Commission on Tuesday downgraded its forecast for euro zone economic growth over the next few years, leading investors to raise bets the ECB might consider more action to stimulate the region's economy.

Spot gold fell about 0.4 percent to $1,163.00 an ounce, down for the fifth session in six and flirting with four-year lows.