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Asian markets mixed but China fears weigh

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Asian markets were mixed on Wednesday as a rebound on Wall Street settled nerves after a two-day sell-off sparked by weak Chinese growth data.

The dollar and euro also recovered against the yen, while gold levelled out after suffering its worst fall in 30 years on Monday.

Tokyo climbed 1.22 percent, or 161.45 points, to 13,382.89, Sydney rose 1.09 percent, or 53.8 points, to 5,004.6 and Seoul was flat, edging up 1.63 points to 1,923.84.

Shanghai also ended flat, dipping 1.05 points to 2,193.80, while Hong Kong fell 0.47 percent, or 102.36 points, to 21,569.67 as an early rally was wiped out by continuing fears about the strength of the mainland Chinese economy.

Traders moved in to pick up cheap stocks on Wednesday after the previous day's sell-off, which was inflamed by a double bomb attack on Boston that killed at least three people and wounded more than 180.

Wall Street provided a strong cue thanks to upbeat data on housing starts and good earnings reports from corporate giants including Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson and chipmaker Intel.

The Dow, which on Monday suffered its worst fall in five months, jumped 1.08 percent, while the S&P 500 climbed 1.43 percent back towards recent record highs. The tech-based Nasdaq added 1.50 percent.

On bullion markets, prices remain subdued but were well up from the two-year lows around $1,338.00 seen Monday in New York -- representing an intra-day fall of 10 percent, its biggest drop since 1983.

The precious metal plunged after China released data showing the economy grew at a slower pace in January to March than it did in the previous three months, fuelling concerns a pick-up in the world's number two economy remained fragile.

An ounce of gold fetched $1,383.90 at 1030 GMT, compared with $1,391.10 late Tuesday in Asia.

Japan's Nikkei index was boosted by a rise in the value of the dollar and euro against the yen.

The dollar stood at 98.12 yen in early European trade, compared with 97.79 yen in New York Tuesday afternoon. The greenback had fallen to as low as 96 yen during a global flight to safety on Monday.

Dealers expect the unit to break the 100-yen mark soon owing to the Bank of Japan's huge stimulus programme unveiled earlier this month.

The euro bought 129.40 yen, up from 128.86 yen, after sinking to 126 yen Monday. The euro was also at $1.3185, against $1.3180.

Oil prices were mixed. New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in May, fell 10 cents to $88.62 a barrel but Brent North Sea crude for June was up 11 cents at $100.02. The Brent contract on Tuesday fell below the $100 mark for the first time since July.

In other markets:

-- Singapore ended flat, dipping 0.12 points to 3,291.46.

United Overseas Bank rose 1.87 percent to Sg$20.73 while oil-rig maker Keppel Corp shed 0.53 percent to Sg$11.29.

-- Taipei rose 0.10 percent, or 8.02 points, to 7.809.07.

Smartphone maker HTC rose 3.23 percent to Tw$272.0 while Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company was 0.5 percent lower at Tw$100.0.

-- Manila closed 0.94 percent higher, adding 63.93 points to 6,850.26.

LT Group surged 11.1 percent to 23 pesos while Philippine Long Distance Telephone rose 0.9 percent to 2,910 pesos.

-- Wellington jumped 1.14 percent, or 50.43 points, to 4,478.27.

Auckland Airport rose 2.1 percent to NZ$2.98, Telecom added 0.6 percent to NZ$2.45 and Chorus was up 2.6 percent at NZ$2.72.

-- Jakarta climbed 1.08 percent, or 53.40 points, to 4,998.65.

Bank Negara Indonesia jumped 5.00 percent to 5,250 rupiah, while palm oil firm Astra Agro Lestari slipped 0.55 percent to 18,150 rupiah.

-- Bangkok lost 0.38 percent or 5.79 points to 1,521.53.

Airports of Thailand added 5.26 percent to 130.00 baht, while supermarket operator Siam Makro jumped 14.84 percent to 650.00 baht.

-- Kuala Lumpur added 0.61 percent, or 10.44 points, to end at 1,710.97.

-- Mumbai was flat, edging down 13.77 points to 18,731.16.

Energy giant Reliance Industries fell 3.78 percent to 774.10 rupees while IT outsourcer TCS fell 1.73 percent to 1,459.2 rupees.

dan/jah

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130417/asian-markets-mixed-china-fears-weigh