Asian shares mostly up, Tokyo hit by GDP data

Asian shares mostly up, Tokyo hit by GDP data

Hong Kong: Most Asian bourses rose on Thursday as dealers followed a positive lead from Wall Street, but Tokyo fell after data showed Japan’s economy was hit harder than expected by the 11 March earthquake.

Tokyo slipped 0.11% by the break on news that the economy shrank 3.7% year on year in January-March, the second consecutive quarter of contraction that puts the country in a technical recession.

The contraction was sharper than an average market forecast for a drop of around 2%.

“The market was expecting a V-shaped recovery, but today’s GDP numbers are raising doubts that we will get out of the slump anytime soon," Norihiro Fujito, senior investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley, told Dow Jones Newswires.

However, the Nikkei’s losses were softened by a weaker yen and rising commodity prices.

And Hisatsune Kobayashi, general manager at SMBC Nikko Securities, said: “On the other hand, we are seeing faster-than-expected resumption of production by Nissan Motor, Toyota Motor and Renesas Electronics."

Hong Kong was 0.46% higher in the morning, Sydney added 0.13%, Shanghai gained 0.24% and Singapore jumped 0.56% while Seoul dropped 0.40%.

On Wall Street the Dow finished 0.65% higher after minutes from the Federal Reserves policy setting committee revealed it is in discussions about how to bring to an end its $600 billion bond-purchasing scheme, otherwise known as quantitative easing.

The US market was also boosted by computer giant Dell, which beat expectations by nearly tripling first-quarter profit from a year ago to $945 million.

Rising oil prices added to buying sentiment, lifting resource firms, after figures showed US stockpiles had not risen as much as expected.

New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for June delivery, advanced 13 cents to $100.23 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for July delivery gained 13 cents to $112.43.

On money markets the dollar bought ¥81.55 in Tokyo morning trade, after topping ¥81.80 earlier in the day. The dollar traded at ¥81.64 in New York late Wednesday.

The euro fetched $1.4281 in the morning, up from $1.4236. Against the yen, the euro traded at ¥116.47 compared with ¥116.38 in New York.

The euro continued to be strained as officials tried to hammer out a deal to help Greece solve its debt problems.

Gold opened at $1,499.00-$1,450.00 per ounce, up from its Wednesday close of $1,493.00-$1,494.00.