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Asian markets mixed on US inflation worries

Asian markets mixed on US inflation worries
AP
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First Published: Fri, Mar 20 2009. 12 29 PM IST
Updated: Fri, Mar 20 2009. 12 29 PM IST
Hong Kong: Asian stock markets were mixed Friday as investors turned cautious amid worries the US Federal Reserve’s latest move to combat recession in the world’s largest economy will lead to rampant inflation.
Trade was lackluster in most markets, with Tokyo closed for a holiday, as the region closed out one of its strongest weeks this year with a whimper.
Sentiment took a hit after Wall Street’s rally petered out Thursday. In the US, investor euphoria over the central bank’s aggressive $1.2 trillion plan to buy government bonds and debt securities gave way to fears the new spending would stoke inflation long term.
Those concerns have pummeled the dollar, which stabilized in Asia but was still headed for a 4% loss against the yen this week. That hurts Japan’s big exporters by eroding their foreign income.
While the market may see more upside, continuing woes in the financial system would likely lead to more selling in the weeks ahead, analysts said.
“I don’t think anyone reasonably expects this to be a long-term rally or that we’ve hit bottom,” said Andrew Orchard, Asian strategist for Royal Bank of Scotland in Hong Kong. “The problems with the financial system are still unknown.”
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 207.85 points, or 1.6%, to 12,923.07, and Australia’s benchmark S&P/ASX 200 stock index declined 0.4%to 3,465.8.
Stocks in mainland China rose for a fifth day, with the Shanghai Composite advancing 0.5% to 2,277.89. South Korea’s Kospi climbed 0.8% to 1,171.04. Trading will reopen in Tokyo on Monday.
Markets in the Philippines and Thailand also rose.
Overnight in the New York, banking and other financial shares dragged on the broader market, and the major indexes finished down. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 85.78, or 1.2%, to 7,400.80.
The broader Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 10.31, or 1.3%, to 784.04, while Nasdaq composite index fell 7.74, or 0.5 percent, to 1,483.48.
US futures pointed to more losses on Wall Street. Dow futures were down 63 points, or 0.9% to 7,348, while S&P 500 futures were down 7.4 points, or 1% to 772.7.
The dollar recovered some after tumbling overnight, gaining to 94.62 yen from 94.53 yen earlier but down from nearly 99 yen two days ago. The euro was lower at $1.3652 from $1.3660.
Oil prices eased after surging overnight on a weakened dollar and evidence that Opec has significantly slowed production. Benchmark crude for April delivery was down 49 cents at $51.12.
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First Published: Fri, Mar 20 2009. 12 29 PM IST
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