Markets steady as cautious traders take stock

Traders are looking at a plethora of risk factors

Asian and European shares struggled for clear direction Tuesday following another volatile session on Wall Street, as cautious traders faced a slew of potential headwinds buffeting the global economy.

While Japanese stocks powered higher as investors snapped up bargains following steep losses the day before, other markets in Asia drifted lower as a wait-and-see mood prevailed.

And European equities were also taking a breather after last week's extreme volatility, with London, Paris and Frankfurt not straying too far from Monday's closing levels.

Tokyo was the star performer, with the benchmark Nikkei-225 up 1.25 percent on what traders called a "technical rebound" after a sharp fall on Monday.

Shares in China, South Korea and Hong Kong were lower, with the Chinese benchmark Shanghai Composite, which has suffered more than most markets in the recent rout, losing almost one percent in late Asian trade.

Traders in China were unsettled by inflation data, which rose for the fourth straight month, hitting the highest level since February, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

"Investors are worried that slow economic growth and higher commodity prices could lead to stagflation," said Shen Zhengyang, an analyst with Northeast Securities.

Global markets have been rocked in recent days by fears over spiking oil prices, rising US long-term interest rates and an attack by US President Donald Trump on his own central bank and its policies.

Investors have now entered a "stalemate period to rethink the plethora of looming market uncertainties, ambiguities and flat out worries", said Stephen Innes from OANDA trading.

"But this relative calm belies the building storm clouds on the horizon."

After a see-saw session on Wall Street, the Dow Jones closed down 0.4 percent and the broader S&P 500 was down just more -- at 0.6 percent.

In commodities trading, the oil price continued to climb amid ongoing geopolitical tensions surrounding Saudi Arabia, with accusations that journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in the Kingdom's consulate in Istanbul.

Trump sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to find out "first-hand what happened, what they know, what's going on". The oil price fell back in early European trading.

Margaret Yang Yan, market analyst at CMC Markets Singapore said: "Against the backdrop of the softening dollar and rising political tensions between the US and Saudi due to the disappearance of (Khashoggi), crude oil prices stopped bleeding and started to rebound."

Turning to foreign exchange markets, the pound suffered further falls in early Asian trade as the possibility of a "no deal" Brexit looms, before recovering slightly.

EU President Donald Tusk said he remained "hopeful and determined" that Britain and the bloc could clinch an amicable divorce deal.

However, he added: "We must prepare the EU for a no-deal scenario, which is more likely than ever before."

- Key figures around 0730 GMT -

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 1.3 percent at 22,549.24 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.1 percent at 25,432.67

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.8 percent at 2,546.33 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1597 from $1.1569 at 0630 GMT

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3192 from $1.3147 at 0630 GMT

Dollar/yen: UP at 112.12 from 112.06 yen at 0630 GMT

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 35 cents at $71.51 per barrel

Oil - Brent Crude: DOWN 52 cents at $80.50 per barrel

New York - Dow Jones: DOWN 0.4 percent at 25,250.55 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.1 percent at 7,022.44 (open)

Paris - CAC 40: FLAT at 5,094.44 (open)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 0.2 percent at 11,637.62 (open)