Friday, March 16, 2012

Asian shares mostly higher on US data

HONG KONG: Asian markets were mixed on Friday as another batch of upbeat US data was tempered by lingering concerns over the rising cost of oil and China's slowing economy.

The dollar and euro also held up against the yen as risk sentiment slowly return to the market.

Tokyo was flat by the break, Hong Kong rose 0.24 per cent and Shanghai gained 0.48 per cent but Sydney slipped 0.13 per cent and Seoul was 0.17 per cent off.

Regional stocks rallied for a third straight day after a string of figures from the United States that add to the growing optimism that the world's number one economy is finally on the road to recovery.

On Thursday official figures showed a better-than-expected 351,000 initial weekly jobless claims were filed in the week ending March 10 -- almost a week after the Labor Department said non-farm payrolls surged again in February.

Also Thursday two surveys of manufacturing in New York and the mid-Atlantic region showed activity continuing to rise, while the producer price index for February jumped a forecast 0.4 per cent on the month.

However, there are fears that the recovery could be halted by rising oil prices amid tensions in the Middle East between the West and Iran.

US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said aspects of the rebound so far have been encouraging, but the US faces a "dangerous and uncertain world" due to the stand-off.

Washington and the European Union have in the past four months ramped up economic sanctions on Iran in a bid to force it to suspend its nuclear programme, which they believe is being used by Tehran to build an atomic bomb.

But Iran has warned it would blockade the strategic Strait of Hormuz -- choking off a key transit route for global oil supplies -- if the West imposes further punitive measures.

Oil prices rose in Asian trade, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in April up 33 cents to $105.44 while Brent North Sea crude for May gained 41 cents to $123.01.

Concerns over a slowdown in China -- a key driver of other economies -- has also checked market advances.

"The Chinese government has done its best to rock regional stocks recently," Justin Harper, market strategist at IG Markets in Singapore, said in a note.

"In under a fortnight China has revised its (gross domestic product) growth downwards, revealed a record high trade deficit and warned that its housing market still hasn't cooled down enough."

On currency markets the euro bought $1.3075 and 109.07 yen in early Asian trade, compared with $1.3082 and 109.23 yen in New York late Thursday. The dollar was at 83.43 yen against 83.49 yen.

The yen has eased against the two main units in recent weeks after the Bank of Japan announced fresh monetary easing, the US Fed held off similar moves and Greece finally agreed a deal that will help it pay its mountainous debts.

Gold was at $1,662.90 an ounce at 0250 GMT, compared with $1,646.70 late Thursday.

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Source From Channle News Asia

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