Asian shares mixed, Tokyo lifted by weak yen

Asian shares mixed, Tokyo lifted by weak yen

Hong Kong: Asian stocks were mixed in quiet trade on Monday as dealers locked in profits from recent gains while two of the region’s major markets were closed.

Tokyo’s Nikkei added 0.29% by the break, Seoul rose 0.22%, Singapore and Taipei were flat and Shanghai fell 1.01%.

Hong Kong, Sydney and New Zealand were shut for public holidays, while European and US markets were closed on Friday for the Easter break.

The Japanese market was lifted by a weaker yen after a report that the central bank will cut by half its projection for economic growth in the fiscal year to the end of March 2012 because of last month’s quake-tsunami disaster.

The Bank of Japan is expected to downgrade its outlook for the year from 1.6% to around 0.8% in light of the deadly disasters, the Nikkei daily said.

The 11 March earthquake and tsunami battered the northeast coast of Japan, resulting in the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986.

The region’s infrastructure, businesses and factories were destroyed, while many local residents were left without jobs, hammering output.

However the report did say the BoJ would also predict a rebound starting later this year as factories begin running again and exports recover as supply chain disruptions are alleviated and reconstruction demand starts picking up.

The report came as BoJ governor Masaaki Shirakawa joined private economists in saying he saw a contraction in the first half of 2011 due to the twin disasters.

The greenback rose against the Japanese unit, standing at ¥82.23 in the morning, from ¥81.88 Friday afternoon in Tokyo. The euro bought $1.4579 from $1.4571 and gained to ¥119.89, compared with ¥119.30.

“With such remarks, the BoJ might have tried to lay the foundation for a possible downward revision in its growth forecast," said Hideki Hayashi, global economist at Mizuho Securities.

Most markets finished on a high last week after better-than-expected earnings reports from US corporate giants such as Apple and IBM, which lifted hopes for the global economy.

New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in June, rose 52 cents to $112.81 a barrel, while Brent North Sea crude for June gained 54 cents to $124.53.

Gold markets in Hong Kong were closed for the Easter break.