* Asia ex-Japan down; Nikkei closes lower on yen strength
* European stocks headed for lower open
* Wall Street ended choppy session little changed
* Tighter French vote a flashback to Brexit, Trump win
* Oil reverses gains as U.S. supply concerns return
By Nichola Saminather
SINGAPORE, April 11 Asian stocks fell on Tuesday
as the political tinderbox in the Middle East and the Korean
Peninsula added to uncertainty over the looming French vote,
pushing nervous investors into safer assets such as the yen and
Even oil, which advanced earlier on supply concerns in the
wake of U.S. missile strikes on a Syrian air base last week and
a shutdown at a Libyan oilfield, reversed to trade lower,
breaking its multi-session winning streak.
European stocks were also on track for a subdued start, with
financial spreadbetters tipping Britain's FTSE 100 and
France's CAC down 0.1 percent, and Germany's DAX
off 0.2 percent.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
dropped 0.3 percent.
"Most Asian markets could be seen with moderate changes this
morning amid a mixed trend," said Jingyi Pan, market strategist
at IG in Singapore. "Price movements here appear to be largely
mirroring those in the U.S., with key corporate earnings due
later in the week and could be the reason that investors are
still holding onto equities."
The heightened geopolitical risks come at a time when the
global economy has shown steady improvement, led by the United
States and encouraging momentum in export-reliant Asia.
Tokyo's Nikkei closed 0.3 percent lower, dragged
down by a stronger yen. Toshiba Corp. was among the
biggest decliners, ending the day 2.7 percent lower, with the
conglomerate expected to file its twice-delayed earnings results
on Tuesday, without a full sign-off by auditors.
Accountants question the numbers at the company's U.S.
nuclear subsidiary Westinghouse Electric Co., where massive cost
overruns have pushed the Japanese parent company to the brink.
Chinese shares lost 0.4 percent, while Hong Kong
stocks slumped 0.9 percent.
South Korean shares and Taiwan were also
Australian stocks reversed earlier losses to climb
0.3 percent, after a measure of business conditions hit the
highest level in a decade. They earlier hit their highest level
since April 2015 for the second session in a row.
The Australian dollar was flat at $0.7501, paring
Overnight, Wall Street ended a choppy session little
changed, weighed down by nervousness about quarterly corporate
earnings later this week.
The depressed sentiment pulled 10-year U.S. Treasury yields
down to 2.3427 percent on Tuesday from Monday's 2.361 percent
British Prime Minister Theresa May spoke on Monday with
U.S. President Donald Trump and agreed that "a window of
opportunity" exists to persuade Russia to break ties with Syrian
President Bashar al-Assad, May's office said.
Trump is open to authorizing additional strikes on Syria if
the use of chemical weapons continues in the country, the White
House said on Monday.
Investors are also nervous about the possibility of U.S.
military action against North Korea after the strikes in Syria.
A U.S. Navy strike group headed toward the western Pacific
Ocean near the Korean peninsula as a show of force, while South
Korea's acting president ordered the military to intensify
monitoring of the North's activities.
China and South Korea agreed on Monday to tougher sanctions
on North Korea if it carries out nuclear or long-range missile
In France, polls for many weeks have been showing centrist
Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen on track to
top the first round of voting on April 23 and go through to a
May 7 runoff.
While Le Pen's plans to ditch the euro and hold a referendum
on European Union membership have spooked many investors, recent
polls have pointed to a tighter race, with support for far-left
candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon surging recently.
That has sent the spread between German and
French 10-year government bonds soaring to the
widest since Feb. 22.
"After Britain’s Brexit referendum and the U.S. presidential
election surprised markets in 2016, could this event do the
same?," Mark Burgess, global head of equities at Columbia
Threadneedle in London, wrote in a note.
"As a Le Pen presidency is perceived to increase the
likelihood of France’s withdrawal from the EU, the uncertainty
is likely to continue about what this could mean for the euro,
along with a potential wider hit to global markets."
The euro pulled back 0.1 percent to $1.0587, ahead
of data including German economic sentiment, UK price inflation
and Eurozone industrial production later on Tuesday.
The dollar fell 0.3 percent to 110.65 yen, extending
losses from Monday.
The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against
a basket of major trade-weighted peers, was flat at 101.03,
failing to rebound from Monday's 0.16 percent loss.
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said on Monday the
central bank's plans to raise interest rates gradually are aimed
at maintaining employment and inflation rather than boost
Crude retreated from five-week highs hit earlier in the
session as concerns about rising U.S. shale production offset a
shutdown at Libya's largest oilfield over the weekend and the
U.S. strikes against Syria that had supported prices.
U.S. crude pulled back 14 cents to $52.95 a barrel,
after rising for the previous five sessions.
Global benchmark Brent fell 10 cents to $55.89,
breaking a six-session winning streak.
The market jitters and a weaker dollar supported gold, which
advanced for a third straight day.
Spot gold was 0.2 percent higher at $1,256.50 an
(Reporting by Nichola Saminather; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)