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Asian markets mixed, strong yen hits Nikkei

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Asian markets were mixed on Tuesday in the first full session after the Easter break, while Japanese shares sank for a second straight day as the yen extended its recent gains.

The greenback came under renewed selling pressure after a weak set of US manufacturing data raised concerns about the economy, while the euro remains under pressure owing to political deadlock in Italy.

Tokyo fell 1.08 percent, or 131.59 points, to 12,003.43 -- a day after tumbling more than two percent -- while Sydney ended 0.38 percent higher, adding 19.0 points to 4,985.5. Seoul lost 0.49 percent, or 9.84 points, to 1,986.15.

Hong Kong rose 0.31 percent, or 68.19 points, to 22,367.82 but Shanghai ended down 0.30 percent, or 6.66 points, at 2,227.74 -- its lowest finish since December 27.

Regional markets staged a slight rebound after suffering a sell-off over the past few weeks on the back of the bailout saga in Cyprus, which raised fears the eurozone crisis could flare up again, while Italy struggles to form a government more than a month after an election.

An improvement in manufacturing activity across Asia, including China, provided a little support, but news of a slowdown in the United States weighed on sentiment.

The US Institute for Supply Management said its manufacturing sector activity index came in at 51.3 in March, below the 54.0 percent expected by analysts.

While anything above 50 indicates growth, the slowdown has raised fears over the strength of recovery in the world's number one economy.

On Wall Street the Dow dipped 0.04 percent and the S&P 500 gave up 0.45 percent, in the first trading session since the two indexes closed at record highs on Thursday. The Nasdaq sank 0.87 percent.

In New York forex trade Monday the dollar slipped to 93.27 yen from 94.20 yen at the end of last week, while the euro also edged up to $1.2847 from $1.2818.

On Tuesday in Europe the greenback was quoted at 93.10 yen, while the euro sat at $1.2832.

The single currency was at 119.44 yen Tuesday, from 119.82 yen Monday.

The recent pick-up in the yen has hit Tokyo shares, which enjoyed a near 20 percent rise over the first three months of 2013.

Investors have decided to shift back into the yen after selling it for several months on expectations the Bank of Japan's new governor will introduce a more aggressive monetary easing policy.

Haruhiko Kuroda will lead his first policy meeting this week but analysts say markets have already priced in big spending measures and anything he announces will likely fall short of most expectations.

However, Atsushi Hirano, head of FX sales in Japan at the Royal Bank of Scotland, told Dow Jones Newswires: "There aren't any big reasons for this selling. I doubt the sell-off will continue for long."

Oil prices rose, with New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) light sweet crude for delivery in May, up two cents to $97.09 a barrel in the afternoon and Brent North Sea crude for May adding 25 cents to $111.33.

Gold was at $1,597.83 an ounce at 1045 GMT compared with $1,597.90 late on Monday.

In other markets:

-- Singapore rose 0.30 percent, or 10.01 points, to close at 3,317.59.

DBS Bank gained 0.76 percent to Sg$16.00 while Singapore Telecom dropped 1.39 percent to Sg$3.54.

-- Taipei rose 0.18 percent, or 13.94 points, to 7,913.18.

MediaTek gained 2.05 percent to Tw$348.0 while Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co was 0.50 percent lower at Tw$100.5.

-- Manila closed 1.33 percent lower, shedding 91.16 points to 6,748.43.

Ayala Land led the retreat, falling 1.91 percent to 30.80 pesos, while Alliance Global Group dropped 0.24 percent to 20.85 pesos and SM Investments eased 1.74 percent to 1,130 pesos.

-- Wellington fell 0.26 percent, or 11.34 points, to 4,411.41

Contact Energy fell 3.3 percent to NZ$5.51, while Kiwi Income Property lost 3 percent to NZ$1.14, although Telecom was up 1.07 percent at NZ$2.36.

-- Jakarta climbed 0.40 percent, or 19.68 points, to 4,957.25.

Telekomunikasi Indonesia rose 1.40 percent to 10,900 rupiah, while Bank Permata slipped 0.6 percent to 1,670 rupiah.

-- Kuala Lumpur added 1.04 percent, or 17.39 points, to close at 1,685.00.

Tenaga Nasional rose 5.1 percent to 7.59 ringgit while British American Tobacco ended 4.9 percent higher at 63.70 ringgit. Hong Leong Bank slipped 0.6 percent to close at 14.46 ringgit.

-- Bangkok ended flat, edging up 0.99 points to 1,550.54.

Thai Oil Public Co. jumped 3.47 percent to 67.00 baht, while power giant Electricity Generating Public Co. dropped 2.86 percent to 153.00 baht.

-- Mumbai rose 0.93 percent, or 176.2 points, to 19,040.95.

Mobile phone firm Reliance Communications jumped 10.86 percent to 63.3 rupees while IT outsourcer Wipro rose 4.28 percent to 449.8 rupees.

dan/jms

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130402/asian-markets-mixed-strong-yen-hits-nikkei-1