Tokyo: Asian share markets were largely steady on Thursday, struggling to regain multi-month highs, while Shanghai shares see-sawed after a 5 percent sell-off the previous day that sent other markets reeling.
Crude futures hovered at $63 a barrel, after a drop of 5.8% on Wednesday when data from the United States, the world’s top oil consumer, showed an unexpectedly large build in crude oil stocks last week.
The MSCI index of Asia-Pacific shares excluding Japan rose 0.4% after tumbling 1.8% on Wednesday. The index hit a 10 month high on Tuesday.
Tokyo started higher, helped by early losses in the yen, but caution over Asia’s tumble on Wednesday prompted investors to pare the losses. The Nikkei stock average was flat.
However, shares in automakers Honda Motor and Nissan Motor gained strongly following surprise quarterly profits.
“Though the market initially jumped a bit in response to a weaker yen, yesterday’s falls in Asian shares as well as Wall Street are definitely a concern,” said Yutaka Miura, chief technical analyst at Mizuho Securities.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.3% to 9,070.72 on Wednesday. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index shed 0.5% and the Nasdaq Composite slid 0.4%.
“There’s a sense that perhaps the July rally in global stocks may be coming to an end,” Miura said.
The Nikkei hit its highest level in nine months this week and other markets such as Seoul have also risen rapidly, some to levels not seen since the collapse of Lehman Brothers last year, as global recovery hopes have fuelled buying.
But worries on Wednesday that China might be ready to hit the brakes on lending, a move that could curb demand and hinder a global economic recovery, sent Shanghai’s index tumbling and hit commodity prices and energy and raw materials shares.
In comments reported on Thursday, the vice governor of China’s central bank said it would “unswervingly” stick to an appropriately loose monetary policy and will use market tools not quota controls to ensure credit growth was appropriate.
The Shanghai Composite Index gained more than 1% but was still well below Wednesday’s 14-month high.
Shares in Seoul fell, but Australia fared better, buoyed by top banks after a broker upgrade and their gains offset falls in top miners on worries about Chinese demand.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.8% with top lender National Australia Bank Ltd leading banks. Miner BHP Billiton fell, but less than traders had expected from the drop in oil and metals prices.
In New Zealand, the central bank warned the strength of the New Zealand dollar was adding to the risks of economic recovery as the country tries to emerge from its worst recession on record.
It kept rates unchanged at a record low of 2.5% but left the door open to more cuts if the currency, which has risen 30 percent since March, did not ease.
The currency dropped a cent after the central bank news but was steady on the day at $0.6505 later.
South Korea too reaffirmed it would maintain expansionary economic policy until the private sector revived and warned a premature shift in policy to tightening mode could cause problems.
Concern about China also made waves in the currency market, where the dollar had risen on Wednesday as investors took profits on currencies that have benefited from improving investor confidence that the global economy has hit bottom.
The dollar trimmed gains against a basket of currencies after the comment by China’s central bank.
The yen, another currency which benefits when investors turn defensive, held steady at ¥95.02 per dollar but lost some of the previous day’s gains against the euro and Australian dollar.