Thursday, March 15, 2012

Asian shares mostly lower, Tokyo up on weak yen

HONG KONG: Asian markets mostly fell on Thursday following two days of gains, while increasing optimism over the recovery in the US economy boosted the dollar.

Tokyo gained 0.72 per cent, or 72.76 points, to 10,123.28, Sydney shed 0.22 per cent, or 9.4 points, to 4,277.8 and Seoul was flat, edging down 1.32 points to 2,043.76.

In afternoon trade Hong Kong fell 0.31 per cent and Shanghai was 0.54 per cent lower.

Investors took a breather after recent gains that were fuelled by Greece's successful debt swap with private creditors last week, strong US jobs data and upbeat comments from the Federal Reserve on US economy.

Tokyo exporters were lifted by the weakening yen, which fell to a fresh 11-month low against the dollar after the Fed doused any chance of monetary easing in the near term.

Adding to selling pressure on the yen was the Bank of Japan's decision last month to pump more cash into the country's stuttering economy.

The dollar rose to 84.18 yen in Tokyo -- its highest since April -- before easing slightly to 84.01. It sat at 83.68 yen late Wednesday in New York.

The the euro advanced to 109.41 yen compared with 109.08 yen but dipped to $1.3026, compared with $1.3032 and in New York.

"The US dollar in particular has been buoyed by higher US bond yields," Mitul Kotecha, strategist at French bank Credit Agricole, said in a note.

"Risk measures continue to improve, suggesting that the overall tone to risk assets will remain positive," he said, according to Dow Jones Newswires.

The dollar may climb as high as 84.50 yen during the session, backed by rising US Treasury yields and an improving outlook for the US economy, said Masashi Murata, senior currency strategist at investment bank Brown Brothers Harriman in Tokyo.

Shanghai and Hong Kong shares remained weak after Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said property prices were still too high in the country and that tightening measures aimed at bringing them down were unlikely to be eased in the near term.

Oil prices were mixed in Asian trade Thursday as concerns over tensions between the West and Iran were tempered by rising stockpiles in the United States.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in April was up 38 cents to $105.81 while Brent North Sea crude for April delivery shed four cents to $124.93 in the afternoon.

Gold was at $1,643.75 an ounce at 0610 GMT, compared with $1,659.39 late Wednesday.

- AFP/wm

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