Asian shares soft in holiday trade, dollar steady

Asian shares soft in holiday trade, dollar steady

Tokyo: Shares in Tokyo slipped on Friday as investors took profits in trade thinned by the Christmas break in many other markets, while Shanghai fell and the dollar hung near its highs of the month after goods and jobless claims data.

The Shanghai Composite Index had eased 0.2% by 0640 GMT, weighed down by caution over new share supply after Anhui Xinhua Media Co said it would launch an initial public offering next week, but stocks in Taiwan edged up.

Japan’s Nikkei average slipped 0.4% a day after hitting a three-month closing peak, as high-tech exporters such as Canon Inc that have led recent rallies ran out of steam.

But the benchmark, which closed at 10,494.71, still ended 3.5% up on the week and has risen 18.5% so far this year.

“Investors are taking profits as Japanese stocks have rebounded sharply in a short period of time and amid investor caution, with stock markets closed overnight around the world," said Kenichi Hirano, operating officer at Tachibana Securities.

Shares in Kirin Holdings rose 1.6% after a newspaper reported the previous day that the beer maker and rival Suntory Holdings are close to agreeing to a merger ratio.

Copier and digital camera maker Canon fell 1.7% to ¥3,950 after surging on Thursday following approval from EU regulators for its takeover of Dutch firm Oce.

Tokyo Electron Ltd, the world’s No.2 semiconductor equipment maker, slipped 1.7% to ¥5,880 while auto maker Toyota Motor Corp shed 1% to ¥3,850.

Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez this week threatened to expel Toyota unless it produces an all-terrain model of a 4x4 vehicle used for public transport in poor and rural areas.

Japan’s broader Topix retreated 0.5% to 909.39.

Shares in Taiwan rose 0.11% to an 18-month closing high, led by DRAM chip maker Nanya Technology and other memory chip makers on hopes of a demand pickup and after the central bank kept interest rates at a record low of 1.25% on Thursday.

Analysts said a fall in US jobless claims had also supported gains in some tech stocks.

New orders for long-lasting US manufactured goods excluding transport items surged in November and new applications for jobless aid hit the lowest level in 15 months last week, pointing to a firmly entrenched economic recovery.

The data helped US stocks to close at 2009 highs on Thursday. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 0.51%, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index 0.53%, and the Nasdaq Composite Index 0.71%.

The dollar was steady at ¥91.41 having hit a two-month high of ¥91.88 this week as year-end closing of short positions gave it a boost.

The rally has run out of steam but the dollar is still on course for its best monthly performance against the yen since February after hitting a 14-year low of ¥84.82 last month.

The euro steadied at $1.4380, after falling as far as $1.4218 this week, its lowest since early September, and is heading for its worst monthly performance against the greenback since January.

“After corporations’ and hedge funds’ dollar repatriation has run its course, the dollar could weaken again next week," said Jun Kato, a senior chief analyst at Shinkin Central Bank Research Institute in Tokyo.

The US Treasury Department auctions a total of $118 billion worth of two-, five- and seven-year notes next week and yield moves could give some direction to the dollar.

“If there is no major turbulence in longer-dated US Treasury yields next week, the dollar could fall to the lower end of ¥90. But if yields spike, the dollar could rise to ¥92," Kato said.

Japanese government bond futures ended down 0.15 point at 139.74 after touching their lowest levels for the week ahead of expected approval by Japan’s cabinet of a draft budget for the fiscal year from next 1 April.

Sources said this week that bond market issuance for fiscal 2010 was likely to be a record ¥145 trillion ($1.58 trillion), posing a test for a market already forced to digest ever increasing supply.