Asian shares rise, Tokyo cautious after new quake

Asian shares rise, Tokyo cautious after new quake

Hong Kong: Asian shares rose on Friday in edgy trade after Japan’s northeast coast was hit by one of the biggest earthquakes to have rattled the region since last month’s deadly tremor.

The 7.1 magnitude quake killed three people and cut power to 3.6 million households in parts of the country still struggling to recover from the 11 March tragedy while also triggering a tsunami alert, which was soon cancelled.

However, authorities reported no damage to the nation’s nuclear power stations.

And Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) said there were no signs of abnormality at its stricken Fukushima Daiichi plant, which workers are battling to stabilize after it was rocked by last month’s twin disaster.

Tokyo’s Nikkei was up 0.91% by the break after a choppy morning, with exporters helped by the ongoing weakness of the yen.

TEPCO, which has been hammered since the first quake, gained 10% to ¥374.

Hong Kong put on 0.45% in early trade, Shanghai rose 0.33% and Seoul added 0.49%.

However, investors remained cautious amid fears that big aftershocks from the 11 March quake, such as Thursday’s, could hurt recovery Japan’s production, said Yutaka Miura, senior technical analyst at Mizuho Securities.

He told Dow Jones Newswires that eyes would be on the March economy watchers’ survey later Friday, which “unlike the (Bank of Japan’s) Tankan (survey), will paint a more complete picture of business sentiment after the earthquake". The survey is taken at the end of each month.

Last month’s Tankan showed confidence in the outlook for the next three months had tumbled, although the survey was incomplete as some of it took businesses’ opinion prior to the quake-tsunami.

Sydney gained 0.50% and Singapore was flat after Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan rejected a proposed $8.7 billion merger between the two exchanges saying it went against his country’s national interests.

He warned that the deal was more a takeover of the ASX by the Singapore bourse that would see the Australian financial sector become “a subsidiary to a competitor in Asia".

On currency markets the euro edged higher after the European Central Bank on Thursday did as expected and raised interest rates for the first time since July 2008, by 25 basis points to 1.25%.

The euro was at $1.4363 from $1.4306 late Thursday in New York while the single European currency was at 122.42 to the euro from 122.02.

Against the dollar the yen was trading at 85.23 from ¥85.00.

The ECB rate rise came despite fresh concerns over the region’s sovereign debt after Portugal said it would need a bailout to balance its stricken economy, following Ireland and Greece.

Oil stayed at two-and-a-half-year highs because of the ongoing troubles in the Arab world and conflict in Libya as well as the postponement of elections in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest crude producer.

New York’s benchmark West Texas Intermediate light sweet crude for May delivery rose 55 cents to $110.85 per barrel and Brent North Sea crude for May gained 38 cents to $123.05.

Gold opened at $1,458.00-$1,459.00 an ounce in Hong Kong, down from Wednesday’s close of $1,459.00-$1,460.00.