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Asian stock markets fall, Tokyo hits new high

January 11, 2013

HONG KONG, Jan 11: Asian shares fell on Friday after the previous day’s gains but Tokyo hit a 23-month high as the yen sank further after Japan’s new leaders unveiled a stimulus package worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

While the yen came under fresh selling pressure after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe outlined his economy-boosting plan, the euro was also lifted by unexpectedly positive comments about the eurozone by the ECB head Mario Draghi. However, the latest inflation data out of China was unable to impress investors as much as the better-than-expected trade figures the previous day that indicate a pick-up in the world’s number two economy.

Tokyo climbed 1.40 per cent, or 148.93 points, to 10,801.57 — its highest level since February 2011, but Sydney fell 0.28 per cent, or 13.5 points, to close at 4,709.5 and Seoul lost 0.50 per cent, or 10.13 points to 1,996.67.

Hong Kong fell 0.39 per cent, or 90.24 points, to 23,264.07 and Shanghai closed down 1.78 per cent, or 40.66 points, at 2,243.00. Abe, whose Liberal Democratic Party swept to power last month, set out a $226.5bn stimulus to kick-start the limp economy with plans to rebuild tsunami-hit areas, beef up the military, boost employment and end deflation.

“With the measures, we will achieve real GDP growth of two per cent and 600,000 jobs created,” he said in a briefing. Also on Friday, data showed that Japan logged a bigger-than-expected 222.4bn yen deficit in November as exports to Europe and China dropped.

The events in Tokyo sent the yen tumbling. The unit, which hit a record high of 75 against the dollar in late 2011, has been tumbling since Abe promised in his election campaign last year that he would unveil more stimulus and also urge the Bank of Japan for more aggressive monetary easing.

The dollar climbed to 89.34 yen at one point in Tokyo — its highest since June 2010 — before easing back to 88.99 yen in Europe, but still up from 88.64 in New York late on Thursday.

The euro also surged to 118.56 yen in early Tokyo trade, breaking 118 yen for the first time since May 2011. It then retreated to 118.05 yen, from 117.53 yen in New York. The single currency rose after the ECB decided not to cut interest rates, as some observers had expected, while Draghi said the eurozone was looking in better shape than last year.Among a long list of positives, he pointed to lower bond yields, higher stock prices, record-low volatility, strong inflows into the eurozone, a halt of capital flight in peripheral countries and a reduction of the ECB’s balance sheet.

“If you look at the overall landscape taking, let’s say, a medium-term perspective... you will see a significant improvement in financial market conditions,” he said.

He added that the debt crisis was not yet over, but said while the overriding fear last year had been one of “contagion” and that the crisis would deepen and spread, there was also “positive contagion when things go well”.

Against the dollar the euro bought $1.3265, from $1.3261 in New York. In China official figures showed inflation came in at 2.6 per cent in 2012, down sharply from 5.4 per cent the year before and much lower than the 4.0 per cent target set by Beijing. And for December the rate hit 2.5 per cent, in line with expectations.

While the data gives policymakers more room to loosen monetary policy, dealers were not as excited by the news as Thursday’s figures that showed a huge jump in the trade surplus. On Wall Street the Dow rose 0.60 per cent, the S&P 500 advanced 0.76 per cent and the Nasdaq added 0.51 per cent.

Oil prices were mixed, with New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in February, losing 16 cents to $93.66 a barrel in the afternoon, while Brent North Sea crude for February dropped 53 cents to $111.36.

Gold was at $1,669.80 at 1040 GMT compared with $1,662.87 late on Thursday.

In other markets: Singapore closed down 0.30 per cent, or 9.75 points, to 3,216.50. Singapore Telecommunications gained 0.59 per cent to Sg$3.39 and investment holding company Jardine Cycle & Carriage gained 0.43 per cent to Sg$48.89.

Taipei added 0.10 per cent, or 7.51 points, to 7,819.15. HTC rose 0.73 per cent to Tw$277.0 while Chunghwa Telecom fell 0.32 per cent to Tw$94.2.

Manila closed 0.55 per cent higher, adding 33.18 points to 6,051.75. BDO Unibank added 0.33 per cent to 75.15 pesos and Ayala Corp. rose 0.55 per cent to 550 pesos, while Philippine Long Distance Telephone increased 1.97 per cent to 2,688 pesos.

Wellington ended 0.31 per cent higher, adding 12.67 points to 4,131.75. Nuplex was up 1.6 per cent at NZ$3.21, Telecom advanced 0.43 per cent to NZ$2.31 and Fletcher Building added 0.6 per cent to NZ$8.72.

Kuala Lumpur lost 0.11 per cent, or 1.87 points, to end at 1,682.70. Genting Malaysia fell 3.7 per cent to 3.61 ringgit while YTL Power International eased 2.4 per cent to 1.60 ringgit. UEM Land Holdings picked up 2.4 per cent to 2.15 ringgit.

Jakarta fell 0.27 per cent, or 11.45 points, to 4,305.91. Mobile phone provider Indosat dropped 2.14 per cent to 6,850 rupiah and cigarette maker Gudang Garam slid 1.04 per cent to 52,300 rupiah, while miner Aneka Tambang rose 2.22 per cent to 1,380 rupiah.

Bangkok added 0.43 per cent, or 6.07 points, to 1,412.06. Siam Cement lost 1.36 per cent to 434.00 baht, while telecoms company Advanced Info Service edged up 2.03 per cent to 201.00 baht.

Mumbai ended flat, up 0.09 points at 19,663.64. Infosys rose 16.90 per cent to 2,712.6 rupees, while rival Wipro rose 6.10 per cent to 419.5 rupees. —AFP