Thursday, March 29, 2012

Asian stocks down on weak US, British data

HONG KONG - Asian markets slipped on Thursday as more weak economic data out of the United States and Britain stoked concerns about the global economy.

Tokyo stocks fell 0.67 percent or 67.78 points to 10,114.79, Sydney was 0.13 percent lower, losing 5.6 points to end at 4,337.9, and Seoul fell 0.85 percent or 17.33 points to 2,014.41.

Hong Kong shed 1.32 percent or 276.03 points to 20,609.39 and Shanghai lost 1.43 percent or 32.72 points to end at 2,252.16.

The losses followed a fall on Wall Street after figures from the US Commerce Department showed a slower-than-expected rise in new orders for manufactured durable goods.

That came after an index of US consumer confidence on Tuesday showed a slip, while home prices continued to fall in January.

The results -- added to a cool assessment of the US economy by Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke -- come after a run of upbeat jobs data that had lifted hopes the recovery is picking up.

On Wednesday the Dow index fell 0.54 percent, the S&P 500 lost 0.49 percent and the Nasdaq gave up 0.49 percent.

Eyes will now be on US unemployment claims later Thursday, Sydney-based CMC Markets sales trader Miguel Audencial said in a note.

"One would expect that a low figure would boost the market, but on the other hand there is the possibility that the market might see it as a signal that the likelihood of further monetary easing policies may decline and this could be a drag on the market," he said.

Official data in Britain showed that the country's economy shrank a revised 0.3 percent in the final three months of 2011, worse than the 0.2 percent drop previously estimated.

On currency markets, the yen strengthened as investors sought safer assets.

The dollar was quoted at 82.66 yen in afternoon Asian trade against 82.86 yen in New York late Wednesday. The euro bought US$1.3315 and 110.08 yen compared with US$1.3316 and 110.36 yen in New York.

In afternoon trade, bargain buying helped crude reverse earlier losses that were stoked by the US Department of Energy's announcement that inventories jumped by 7.1 million barrels last week -- three
times more than expected.

Adding downward pressure on oil were comments from French Energy Minister Eric Besson suggesting that France is ready to release some of its strategic oil reserves to stave off rising prices.

"It was the United States that requested this, and France greeted the idea favourably. We are now waiting for the opinion of the International Energy Agency," Besson said on Wednesday after a Cabinet meeting.

New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate crude for delivery in May, rose 22 cents to US$105.33 63 per barrel in the afternoon while Brent North Sea crude for May settlement was up 21 cents at US$124.07 37.

In other markets, Taipei fell 2.06 percent; Manila closed 0.35 percent higher; Singapore closed down 0.73 percent; Kuala Lumpur added 0.11 percent; Bangkok was flat; and Jakarta rose 0.36 percent.

View the original article here

Source From Channel News Asia

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