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After a three-day winning streak, Asian shares edged lower Friday on continued concerns regarding the future of the eurozone and the Federal Reserve's lack of commitment to further easing measures.
The birds-eye view
Asian stocks pared earlier gains as the MSCI Asia Pacific Index fell 0.2% to close out the week, after jumping 1.7% the previous session. China's central bank lowered benchmark lending and deposit rates by 25 basis points on Thursday, which provided global markets with an initial boost. But the positive sentiment was fleeting, offset by Chairman Bernanke's lack of specificity in reference to additional monetary easing by the Federal Reserve.
Zooming in on Asian markets
After rising to a seven-week high on Wednesday, Japan's Nikkei (INDEX: ^N225) fell on Friday, in a classic reversal of market sentiment. The losses came as eurozone troubles reemerged, outweighing recent measures by China to stimulate its economy. The Fed's uncertain stance on further easing didn't help much either. The index closed out the week at 8470, down nearly 2%, with Sony, Sharp, and Toshiba among the biggest laggards. Oh, how fickle markets can be.
Meanwhile, Singapore and Hong Kong shares fared slightly better, both down 0.3% on the week. Singapore's market (INDEX: SGXL.SI ) was dragged down by commodity-related shares, which sank on expectations of weaker global demand, and banks. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index (INDEX: ^HSI ) was also dragged down by banking stocks, particularly those of Chinese state-owned banks, which didn't take kindly to the rate cut.
And finally, India's Sensex (INDEX: ^BSESN ) proved to be Asia's bright spot, posting its biggest gains of the year, up a Sens-ational 4.7% on the week. The index rose for a fifth consecutive day on hopes that monetary stimulus both abroad and at home would continue to support domestic equities. Indian banks and automakers gained on expectations that the Reserve Bank of India will lower interest rates on June 18th. Still, the country faces strong headwinds in the form of slowing growth and high inflation, leading many to conclude that the rally will be short-lived.
The big picture for investors
To sum it up, the outlook for the eurozone continues to be a major threat as concerns over Spain's fiscal situation and the Greek elections mount. Another overwhelming question that's weighing on global markets is whether or not the Fed will inject more monetary morphine into an ailing economy. China is a third issue, with many arguing its economic slowdown could get even worse in the coming months.
But while these headwinds from the world's biggest economies can be nerve-racking, don't let the day-by-day macro picture dominate your investment outlook. Markets go up, and markets go down. Sometimes they're sensible and at other times, irrational. With the herd inching closer to the exits and more volatility on the way, opportunities for the patient investor lie ahead. If you're invested in high-quality companies for the long term, a major correction could be the perfect time to add to your holdings.
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