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Asian shares mixed, eyes on US data

February 19, 2014

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- File Photo
- File Photo

HONG KONG: Asian markets were mixed Wednesday, with Tokyo stocks dropping after the previous session's surge, as investors awaited US housing data and minutes from the Federal Reserve's last meeting.

The yen rebounded in Asia after tumbling on the Bank of Japan's (BoJ) decision on Tuesday to boost lending to commercial banks.

Tokyo lost 0.52 per cent, or 76.71 points, to 14,766.53, Seoul shed 0.20 per cent, or 3.98 points, to 1,942.93, while Sydney gained 0.29 per cent, or 15.4 points, to 5,408.2.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index added 1.11 per cent, or 23.48 points, to 2,142.55 and the Shenzhen Composite Index – which tracks stocks on China's second exchange – gained 0.14 per cent, or 1.58 points, to 1,157.20.

Hong Kong reversed early losses to rise 0.34 per cent, adding 76.8 points to 22,664.52.

The BoJ announced Tuesday it would double the sum of loan schemes to banks in a bid to stimulate lending to firms and finance growth-stoking projects, such as environmental research and natural resources development.

That helped Tokyo's Nikkei index power 3.13 per cent higher on Tuesday, before profit-taking set in on Wednesday.

US stocks closed mostly higher Tuesday as investors weighed mixed company news and an unexpected slump in home builder confidence.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 0.15 per cent to 16,130.40 while the broader S&P 500 index advanced 0.12 per cent to 1,840.76. The Nasdaq added 0.68 per cent to 4,272.78.

“Equity indices kicked off the abbreviated trading week on a relatively quiet note,” analysts at Briefing.com said in a client note. US markets were closed Monday for the Presidents' Day holiday.

Later Wednesday investors are looking to minutes from Ben Bernanke's last meeting as Fed chief and US housing start figures for January.

“It will be interesting to see if there was any discussion to accelerate or slow the pace of tapering,” National Australia Bank said, referring to the minutes.

The US central bank's move to pull back on its stimulus drive has rattled some emerging economy currencies including Russia's ruble, the South African rand and Turkey's lira.

Eyes are also on the new US housing data after shares of home builders came under pressure. The National Association of Home Builders said its sentiment index tumbled to 46 in February from 56 in January. It largely blamed unusually severe weather in much of the country.

On currency markets the dollar bought 102.19 yen in afternoon trade compared with 102.40 yen in New York Tuesday.

The euro slipped to 140.60 yen from 140.89 while trading at $1.3764 against $1.3759.

Oil prices were mixed in Asian afternoon trade. New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate for March delivery, rose 37 cents to $102.80 but Brent North Sea crude for April eased 26 cents to $110.20.

Gold fetched $1,321.90 an ounce at 0845 GMT from $1,315.44 late Tuesday.

In other markets:

– Manila climbed 1.63 per cent, or 100.65 points, to 6,294.62. BDO Unibank gained 0.99 per cent to 81.80 pesos while Ayala Land Inc. rose 5.33 per cent to 28.65 pesos.

– Taipei rose 0.24 per cent, or 20.78 points, to 8,577.01. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co was unchanged at Tw$108.0 while leading chip design house MediaTek edged up 0.35 per cent to Tw$435.0.

– Wellington gained 0.39 per cent, or 19.05 points, to 4,914.14 Air New Zealand climbed 0.30 per cent to NZ$1.695 and Fletcher Building rose 1.25 per cent to NZ$9.72.