Asian stocks steady, Southeast Asia outperforms

Asian stocks steady, Southeast Asia outperforms

Hong Kong: Asian stocks steadied on Monday, underpinned by a rally in Southeast Asian stocks that drove Jarkata to a record peak as foreign investors keep chasing its surprisingly strong growth momentum.

Major European shares opened 0.4% higher and futures for the S&P 500, Dow Jones and Nasdaq were up 0.1 to 0.2% at 11:50am, pointing to a slightly firmer start for US trade.

Inconclusive weekend elections in Australia briefly pulled its dollar down to a one-month trough although shares in miners rose as investors bet a proposed new tax on coal and iron ore profits may never be introduced.

A wave of mergers in Asia is also boosting values as acquirers leverage on relatively lower valuations and cheap funding costs to buy companies. An estimated $58 billion worth of mergers involving Asian companies were playing out during the day.

“We are seeing this as an extremely stocks selective market. In Asia the markets that are holding up better are the Southeast Asian markets as investors have been very specific about picking markets where companies have sustainable earnings," said Linda Csellak, head of Asia-Pacific equities at MFC Global Investment Management (Asia).

The MSCI index of Asia Pacific ex-Japan stocks was flat with the resources sector outperforming the rest of the market.

In Japan, where the yen currency has rattled investors in recent weeks, shares extended losses amid worries a strong yen would derail the fragile economic recovery.

The Nikkei average inched to a nine-month closing low, shedding 0.7% and holding just above a critical technical support at around 9,100.

The decline follows Friday’s 2% fall as corporate performance jitters grew in the wake of the yen’s strength against the dollar.

“Governments around the world are allowing their currencies to weaken, and if Japan doesn’t do anything about the strength in the yen it could appreciate further and that would put pressure on Japanese stocks," said Masahiko Sato, an executive director at Nomura Securities’ equity marketing department.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Bank of Japan Governor Masaaki Shirakawa discussed the yen and agreed to work closely in a phone conversation on Monday, but Kan did not ask the central bank to ease monetary policy further.

The dollar fell 0.3% to 85.35 yen, within striking distance of ¥84.72 hit earlier this month, its lowest since July 1995.

Indonesia, Asia’s second-best performing stock market this year, rose to an all-time high and Malaysia’s index struck its highest in 2-years, outpacing regional giants Australia and Japan, both of which ended the day with losses.

Oil rebounded to above $74 a barrel but stayed close to six week lows amid concerns about a global economic recovery.