* European markets set for mixed start
* G20 drops pledge to avoid trade protectionism
* Dollar hovers near Friday's 3-wk low; euro stands tall
* Oil retreats at supply concerns continue to weigh
* Japan markets closed for holiday
By Nichola Saminather
SINGAPORE, March 20 Asian stocks were mixed on
Monday in thin trade, following Wall Street's declines and the
G20's decision to drop a pledge to avoid trade protectionism,
while the Federal Reserve's less hawkish-than-expected comments
continued to weigh on the dollar.
European stocks are set for a subdued start, with financial
spreadbetter IG Markets expecting Britain's FTSE 100 to
open little changed and Germany's DAX to open 0.3
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
added 0.3 percent.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng climbed 0.7 percent. Chinese
shares were mixed with the CSI 300 down 0.1 percent
while the Shanghai Composite added 0.1 percent.
Australian shares closed down 0.36 percent. South
Korea ended the day 0.35 percent lower. Japan is
closed for a holiday.
The MSCI emerging markets index added 0.4
percent to hit its highest level in more than two years on
Investor sentiment towards emerging markets, while cooling,
remains positive. Emerging market equity funds had their sixth
straight week of inflows in the week ending March 15, but the
pace slowed. They had net inflows of $215 million, compared with
nearly $1 billion the previous week, according to Thomson
On Friday, Wall Street was flat to negative, dragged lower
by bank shares that fell along with Treasury yields.
Financial leaders from the world's biggest economies
reiterated their warnings against competitive devaluations and
disorderly foreign exchange markets at the meeting in the German
town of Baden-Baden over the weekend.
But they failed to agree on a commitment to keep
international trade free and open, highlighting a global shift
On Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Japan's Prime
Minister Shinzo Abe defended free trade, calling for a trade
deal to be reached quickly between Japan and the European Union
and distancing themselves from protectionist rhetoric coming
from the Trump administration.
"Essentially (the G20 outcome was) a result of the U.S.
protectionist stance, something Trump has been very clear on and
the market is well aware of this," said James Woods, global
investment analyst at Rivkin Securities in Sydney.
"Importantly we saw other leaders such as Shinzo Abe and
Angela Merkel come out publicly supporting free trade, and for
now the protectionist stance remains constrained to the U.S. It
would be more concerning if this began spreading to other
The dollar didn't react to the statements from the meeting,
hovering close to its near-three-week low touched on Friday. It
traded almost 0.2 percent lower at 112.54 yen, its
fourth straight day of declines after the Fed reiterated plans
for three rate hikes this year, fewer than the four markets were
The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against
a basket of six trade-weighted peers, slipped 0.1 percent to
100.17, after earlier touching a 5 1/2-week low.
Markets are focused on a raft of speeches by Federal Reserve
officials this week, including Chicago's Charles Evans on
Tuesday and Friday, Chair Janet Yellen on Thursday, Dallas's
Robert Kaplan and Minneapolis's Neel Kashkari on Friday and New
York's William Dudley on Saturday.
The euro climbed 0.2 percent to $1.0763, riding investor
relief over the Netherlands election defeat of anti-European
Union candidate Geert Wilders that boosted it to a near-six-week
peak on Friday.
Attention now turns to the French election, with the first
Presidential debate set to take place on Monday. Opinion polls
show independent centrist Emmanuel Macron would lead far-right
leader Marine Le Pen by a hair in first-round voting, before
beating her in the run-off.
In commodities, oil prices continued their downward trend as
OPEC supplies remained steady despite touted cuts and rising
U.S. drilling contributed to concerns about a supply glut.
U.S. crude dropped almost 1 percent to $48.32 a
Global benchmark Brent fell 0.6 percent to $51.41.
The weaker dollar boosted gold, which rose 0.5
percent at $1,234.54 an ounce, after touching a two-week high
earlier in the session.
(Reporting by Nichola Saminather; additional reporting by
Saikat Chatterjee; Editing by Sam Holmes)