Monday, March 19, 2012

Asian shares mostly up, weak US data caps gains

HONG KONG: Asian shares were mostly higher Monday on the back of lingering optimism over the recovery in the global economy but the advances were tempered by US data that came in below expectations.

Tokyo rose 0.12 percent, or 12.16 points, to 10,141.99, Sydney added 0.34 percent, or 14.6 points, to close at 4,290.8 and Seoul ended 0.62 percent higher, adding 12.56 points to 2,047.00.

Hong Kong was 0.31 percent higher but Shanghai slipped 0.56 percent.

Global investors have grown bullish in recent weeks after Greece agreed a debt write-down with private creditors qualifying it for a bailout while the US has also provided weeks of good news that point to a brighter future.

"It seems traders are becoming more bullish with every week that passes," said Justin Harper, markets strategist at IG Markets in Singapore.

"With a total eurozone meltdown in the rearview mirror and a US economic recovery gaining traction there is plenty to be positive about," he said in a note to clients, according to Dow Jones Newswires.

However, a batch of data out of the United States on Friday kept traders in check Monday.

Consumer prices picked up in February, but almost entirely due to surging petrol prices as food prices were flat, and the core consumer price index rose just 0.1 percent -- slower than in January.

The Federal Reserve also said industrial output was flat in February, following a 0.4 percent rise in January.

And the University of Michigan index of consumer confidence fell slightly, after analysts had forecast a rise.

On currency markets the yen remained under pressure.

The dollar bought 83.40 yen, against 83.45 yen late Friday in New York, while the euro briefly topped 110 yen in early trade -- for the first time since October -- as traders slowly move away from the safe haven unit.

In Tokyo afternoon trade it bought 109.75 yen, compared with 109.96 yen in New York.

The single currency was also at $1.3160 from $1.3175.

On oil markets crude rose due to the ongoing tensions in the Middle East between Iran and the West over Tehran's controversial nuclear programme, which Washington says is being used to develop weapons.

On Sunday a key Iranian lawmaker declared that Tehran would not offer any concessions over the issue.

Iran has been hit with a wave of sanctions on its oil and finance sectors, as the United States and its allies try to force it to abandon its atomic programme, which Tehran insists is for peaceful purposes.

New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate crude for delivery in April, gained 29 cents to $107.35 per barrel while Brent North Sea crude for May settlement was up 11 cents at $125.92.

Gold was at $1,661.10 an ounce at 0600 GMT, compared with $1,648.90 late Friday.

- AFP/cc

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Source From Channel News Asia

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