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Asia: Markets mixed despite Wall Street gains


[HONG KONG] Asian markets were mixed on Friday following strong gains on Wall Street, with Tokyo enjoying a significant bump due to the dollar's rise against the yen.

Tokyo rose 0.79 per cent by the break and Shanghai climbed 0.20 per cent in early trade, but Hong Kong slipped 0.33 per cent in the morning, Seoul shed 0.48 per cent and Sydney was down 0.20 per cent.

The dollar - trading at its strongest levels in two weeks - rose into the 108-yen range, with risk sentiment lifted by encouraging Chinese manufacturing data and solid readings for eurozone business activity.

A weak yen is positive for Japanese exporters as it makes them more competitive abroad and inflates profits when repatriated.

"The weaker yen should naturally benefit Japan stocks, and help to highlight the fact that shares are looking cheap from many perspectives," said Mutsumi Kagawa, senior global strategist at Tokai Tokyo Research Center.

In the US, stocks bolted higher Thursday following a series of mostly strong earnings reports from Dow members Caterpillar, 3M and others.

At the closing bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average stood at 16,673.63, up 213.31 points (1.29 per cent).

The broad-based S&P 500 gained 23.43 (1.22 per cent) at 1,950.54, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index soared 69.95 (1.60 per cent) to 4,452.79.

"The industrials are leading the market much higher," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital.

"The economic news was somewhat mixed. But we did have very good earnings." The dollar was at 108.14 yen early Friday, down from 108.27 yen in New York Thursday afternoon but well above 107.24 yen in Tokyo earlier Thursday.

The euro bought 136.83 yen against 136.93 yen in New York and 135.59 yen in Tokyo on Thursday.

The common European currency bought US$1.2651 against US$1.2647 in US trade.

On oil markets, prices resumed their downtrend in Asian trade. The US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for December delivery fell 74 cents to US$81.35 a barrel and Brent crude for December declined 60 cents to US$86.23.

Gold was at US$1,229.75 an ounce against US$1,240.97 late Thursday.