Hong Kong: Asian markets were mixed on Friday, with Tokyo’s Nikkei surging to a near three-year high on the back of a weaker yen, while Wall Street provided an uneven lead.
The yen resumed its downtrend after a brief rally as the country’s vice finance minister indicated the new hawkish government would step in to stop the currency from returning to record highs against the dollar.
Tokyo surged 2.88%, or 305.78 points, to 10,926.65, pushing the benchmark index to its best close since April 2010.
Sydney was 0.42% higher, adding 25.0 points to 4,835.2 but Seoul closed 0.91% lower, shedding 17.79 points to 1,946.69.
In the afternoon Hong Kong lost 0.37% while Shanghai eased 0.22% on profit taking.
Hong Kong closed flat dipping 21.64 points to 23,580.43 and Shanghai fell 0.49%, or 11.30 points to end at 2,291.30.
Takehiko Nakao said the government was closely watching the yen’s movements in currency markets, adding that “appropriate action” would be taken if it got too strong.
His comments in an interview with the Wall Street Journal sent the yen tumbling Thursday in New York, where the dollar jumped to 90.40 yen from 88.56 yen a day earlier, while the euro climbed 120.91 yen from 118.00 yen.
In morning European trade the dollar stood at 90.79 yen and the euro bought 121.87 yen. The single currency fetched $1.3423—around highs not seen for 11 months—from $1.3376 in New York.
“Nakao’s comments serve as a stark reminder of the government’s unrelenting drive to pursue a weaker currency in an attempt to resuscitate the economy,” Chris Gore, currency analyst at Go Markets said in a note to clients, according to Dow Jones Newswires.
The comments also capped a rise in the yen that began on Tuesday as dealers were left disappointed by the Bank of Japan’s (BoJ’s) plan, which had been widely expected, to set an inflation target to beat deflation, and pursue unlimited monetary easing.
The BoJ move, which came after pressure from the government, raised eyebrows around the world and stoked fears of another currency war as other economies look to weaken their currencies to boost exports.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: “I will admit I am not without some concern about Japan right now.” She added that “political influences or manipulations of the exchange rate” have become a hot topic within the Group of 20.
However, Japan’s finance minister Taro Aso on Friday rejected claims Tokyo was orchestrating a slide in the yen, with the online version of the Nikkei quoting him as saying such criticism “is completely off the mark”.
Highlighting the work ahead for Japan’s new leaders, official data Friday showed the economy remained stuck in a deflationary rut, with core consumer prices slipping 0.1% in 2012, the fourth annual decline.
Traders took heart from another rise on the Dow, which ended 0.33% higher after figures were released showing weekly US jobless claims fell for a second straight week, but Wall Street’s other two major indexes fared less well.
The S&P 500 was flat and the tech-rich Nasdaq fell 0.74%, dragged by a 12% plunge in Apple after the iPhone maker’s latest earnings report fell short of expectations.
Seoul, which fell on weak economic growth figures Thursday, took another hit on Friday after index giant Samsung Electronics posted below-forecast results for the October-December fourth quarter.
Oil prices were mixed, with New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March rising 28 cents to $96.23 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for March delivery rising 17 cents to $113.45.
Gold was at $1,669.20 at 1055 GMT compared with $1,677.37 late Thursday.
In other markets:
—Thai stocks rose 0.85% or 12.32 points to close at 1,461.41.
Banpu was unchanged at 392.00 baht, while PTT shed 0.30% or 1.00 baht at 333.00 baht.
—Jakarta ended up 18.87 points, or 0.43%, at 4,437.59.
Hero Supermarket rose 7.22% to 5,200 rupiah, mobile phone provider Indosat gained 4.48% to 7,000 rupiah, while Aneka Tambang fell 1.50% to 1,310 rupiah.
—Kuala Lumpur shares gained 1.88 points, or 0.11%, to close at 1,637.13.
UMW Holdings added 2.7% to 12.10 ringgit, and Felda Global Ventures Holdings rose 1.8% to 4.59. Axiata Group dipped 0.9% to 6.37 ringgit.
—Manila closed 0.82% higher, adding 50.37 points to 6,167.64.
Ayala Corp. rose 1.85% to 552 pesos, Alliance Global Group gained 0.11% to 17.48 pesos and Manila Electric Co. was 1.50% up at 284.60 pesos.
—Mumbai rose 0.9%, or 179.75 points, to 20,103.53.
—Singapore closed up 0.64%, or 20.92 points, to 3,269.31.
Wilmar International gained 3.78% to Sg$3.84 while United Overseas Bank dropped 0.84% to Sg$18.86.
—Taipei fell 0.30%, or 23.41 points, to 7,672.58.
Hon Hai Precision rose 1.09% to Tw$83.4 while TSMC was 0.9% lower at Tw$99.0.
—Wellington rose 0.24%, or 9.91 points, to 4,199.82.
Fisher & Paykel Healthcare was up 2.1% at NZ$2.49 and Telecom added 1.9% to NZ$2.38. AFP