Stocks subdued, oil weakens on recession fears



By Anshuman Daga

SINGAPORE, Aug 16 (Reuters) - Asian markets struggled for direction on Tuesday, as they grappled with worries over global growth, following weak Chinese data that knocked oil prices and commodity-linked currencies.

The dollar briefly hit a one-week high as investors piled back into the safe-haven currency, while the Aussie, euro and Chinese yuan buckled.

Eurostoxx 50 futures STXEc1 and FTSE futures FFIc1 both added 0.3%, indicating a strong start for European stocks. But S&P 500 futures ESc1 and Nasdaq futures NQc1 dipped.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS edged up 0.1%, recovering from Monday's losses. MSCI's benchmark index has gained 5% from the year's lows but is still down 15% so far this year.

Just as investors were taking heart from a four-week rally in global equities that pushed markets to their highest in more than three months, Monday's weak Chinese activity data spanning industrial output and retail sales hit sentiment.

Also, U.S. single-family homebuilders' confidence and New York state factory activity fell in August to their lowest since near the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, a further sign the world's largest economy is softening as the Federal Reserve raises interest rates.

"In short, the risks of a global recession are suddenly much clearer. Then again, they were 'always' clear to some," Rabobank said in a note. "And does anyone think that a central-bank pivot will make them less likely at this stage?"

Overall, the picture was mixed across Asian bourses on Tuesday, with Tokyo .N225 and Taiwan benchmarks flat, while South Korean stocks .KS11 put on 0.2%.

Chinese stocks failed to hold onto early gains as growth concerns remained after data showed economic activity and credit expansion slowed sharply in July, prompting the central bank to unexpectedly cut interest rates.

The blue-chip CSI 300 index .CSI300 slipped 0.1% after dipping on Monday.

On Wall Street, major indexes climbed on Monday, reversing earlier session losses. Shares posted four straight weeks of gains amid optimism over a slowdown in U.S. inflation that could temper the pace of Fed rate hikes.

"Stocks are rallying as markets believe inflation is waning and the Fed will slow hikes soon," BlackRock's investment strategists said in a report.

"We don't think the rally is sustainable. Why? We see the Fed hiking rates to levels that will stall the economic restart," the strategists said.

The U.S. economy contracted in the first and second quarters, amplifying an ongoing debate over whether the country is, or will soon be, in recession.

Growth worries were also the dominant theme in Europe.

Euro zone government bond yields fell on Monday with investors concerned about possible recession and amid persistent fears of production cuts in Germany due to potential gas rationing.

On Tuesday, the dollar index =USD , which measures the greenback against six major peers, rose as high as 106.62, its strongest since Aug. 8, before last trading little changed at 106.49.

The euro EUR=EBS , the most heavily weighted currency in the dollar index, dropped to the weakest since Aug. 5 at $1.0147 before trading little changed at $1.0163.

The Australian and New Zealand dollars were put on the defensive by frail global data.

Brent crude LCOc1 futures remained under pressure, down 1% at $94.15 a barrel after falling close to their lowest on Monday since before Russia sent troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24. WTI crude CLc1 futures shed 0.8% to $88.7 a barrel.



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Editing by Jacqueline Wong


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