RPT–GLOBAL MARKETS-Asia stocks slip; cautious before Bernanke

* MSCI Asia ex-Japan down 2.1 percent so far this week

* Investors uneasy before Bernanke’s speech at 1400 GMT

* Oil, U.S. dollar soft; gold steady near 2-month highs
(Refiles to fix garbled para at 3rd from bottom)

By Koh Gui Qing

SYDNEY, Aug 27 (BestGrowthStock) – Asian stocks pared declines on
Friday but still rounded off a week of losses as persistent
worries over whether the U.S. economy may suffer another
recession kept investors dour.

The cautious tone is expected to echo in European markets
as well, with major stock indices opening lower by between 0.2
to 0.5 percent. [WATCH/EU]

Shaken by the recent run of poor U.S. economic data,
investors chose to play it safe and wait for a speech at 1400
GMT by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on how the world’s
biggest economy may fare in coming months. [ID:nN25199098]

Few expect Bernanke to suggest further monetary policy
easing is on the cards to boost growth, even though some wish
he would.

“What Bernanke says or doesn’t say will determine our fate
next week,” said Don Williams, chief investment officer at
Platypus Asset Management in Australia.

“Because of the sour state of the U.S. economy, some are
hopeful that there will be something on quantitative easing to
support a recovery.”

Underscoring the darkening U.S. outlook, Friday’s second
estimate for U.S. growth could show the economy grew 1.4
percent last quarter, down from a first estimate of 2.4
percent. (ECONUS: )

The overall uneasy mood hurt oil prices (CLc1: ) [O/R] and
held the dollar (.DXY: ) near 15-year lows on the yen (JPY=: ).
[USD/]

A report that Prime Minister Naoto Kan would hold a press
conference later to talk about the strong yen stoked talk yet
again that currency intervention from Tokyo was nigh.

That sparked a round of short-covering in Tokyo and pulled
the Nikkei (.N225: ) up 0.8 percent, from 16-month lows. [.T]

But elsewhere, stocks struggled. The MSCI Asia stock index
outside Japan (.MIAPJ0000PUS: ) trimmed an earlier 0.3 percent
fall and was flat by mid-afternoon.

Tech stocks were the biggest losers, in part because tepid
U.S. growth usually crimps demand for consumer electronics.

South Korea’s Samsung Electronics (005930.KS: ), the world’s
biggest memory chip maker, lost 0.9 percent. Hynix
Semiconductor (000660.KS: ) fell 0.2 percent.

Price performances say as much. For 2010, Southeast Asia
has Asia’s top-performing currencies and stock markets, with
the likes of Indonesia and Malaysia. [.SO] [EMRG/FX]

The MSCI Asia ex-Japan tech sub-index (.MIAPJIT00PUS: ) has
shed over 8 percent this year, straggling a near 5 percent rise
in shares of firms that sell consumer essentials
(.MIAPJCS00PUS: ).

That investors like safety is apparent in gold’s (XAU=: )
rally this month. [GOL/] Gold is near a two-month high, and has
rallied 5.4 percent so far in August, in contrast to the MSCI
Asia ex-Japan’s 2.4 percent drop.

LOVING EMERGING MARKETS

Yet, a want for safety does not mean there is no room at
all for risk.

In fact, EPFR Global data showed stock investors were
pulling out of developed markets where growth is anaemic,
whilst chasing booming emerging markets. [ID:nTOE67Q048]

Price performances say as much. For 2010, Southeast Asia
has Asia’s top-performing currencies and stock markets, with
the likes of Indonesia and Malaysia. [.SO] [EMRG/FX]

“Growth, growth, growth. That really is the theme,” Mark
Mobius at Templeton Asset Management, which manages $37
billion, said of emerging markets.

“Whether it’s selling automobiles to consumers in China,
whether it’s electricity supply to consumers, all of these
areas are going to be most interesting.”

Double-click on http://link.reuters.com/zyc67n for a TV
interview with Mobius.
(Additional reporting by Victoria Thieberger in MELBOURNE;
Editing by Kazunori Takada)

RPT–GLOBAL MARKETS-Asia stocks slip; cautious before Bernanke