Asian markets mixed ahead of US economic data dump

Asian markets mixed ahead of US economic data dump

Bangkok: Asian markets were mixed in light trading Monday, as traders refrained from big moves ahead of a slew of economic data from the US this week while weighing the impact of an emergency aid package to prevent Ireland’s banks from going belly-up.

Oil prices rose above $84 a barrel as investors looked to this week’s key jobs report for evidence the US economy is improving. In currencies, the dollar was up against the yen and the euro.

The Nikkei 225 stock average added 0.7% to 10,109.86, buoyed by a stronger dollar. Electronics, auto and other exporters led gains, as weakness in the yen can boost their profits from overseas.

South Korea’s Kospi fell 0.3% to 1,895.52 and Australia’s S&P/ASX200 index dropped 0.4%, to 4,615.1.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose less than 0.1% to 22,890.35. Smaller bourses were also mixed with Indonesia and Singapore down while India, Taiwan and New Zealand rose.

Jackson Wong, vice president of Tanrich Securities in Hong Kong, said many investors were holding back in anticipation of a slew of economic data due out of the U.S. this week.

The U.S. Labor Department will release third-quarter productivity data and U.S. employment data for November, while the Institute for Supply Management will release its manufacturing index for November. Vehicle and retail sales figures for November will also be released, along with factory orders for October.

“We have tons of economic data coming from the US this week, so that is why the market is quiet, without major direction," he said. Some issues _ such as tensions on the Korean peninsula and Europe’s debt woes have cast a pall over markets but not enough to freeze up trading.

Friday also marked the unofficial start of the US holiday shopping season. The markets were responding positively to initial strong sales on Friday and over the weekend, Wong said.

Also helping ease market tensions was news over the weekend that the European Union had agreed to give euro 67.5 billion ($89.4 billion) in bailout loans for Ireland to help it weather the cost of its banking crisis.

The rescue deal, approved by finance ministers at an emergency meeting in Brussels, means two of the eurozone’s 16 nations have now come to depend on foreign help and underscores Europe’s struggle to contain its spreading debt crisis. The fear is that with Greece and now Ireland shored up, speculative traders will target the bloc’s other weak fiscal links, particularly Portugal. Underlying all those concerns is that the contagion would spread to Spain, a major economy whose implosion would have serious repercussions for the euro.

Worries about an escalation between the Koreas weighed on some stocks, although Wong suggested that investors viewed the situation as stable. Joint military exercises involving a nuclear-powered U.S. aircraft carrier and a South Korean destroyer continued Monday, nearly a week after a deadly attack on a South Korean island sent tensions soaring in the region.

In New York on Friday, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 95.28, or 0.9%, to 11,092. The S&P 500 index was down 8.95, or 0.8%, to 1,189.40. The Nasdaq composite index fell 8.56, or 0.3%, to 2,534.56. Overall, stocks ended the week mixed. The Dow ended 112 points lower, and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 10. However, the technology-heavy Nasdaq composite index gained 17 points for the week.

Benchmark oil for January delivery was up 51 cents to $84.27 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 10 cents to settle at $83.76 on Friday.

The dollar rose to 84.10 yen from 84.07 yen late Friday in New York, continuing to recover from its fall to 80-yen levels a month ago. The euro fell to $1.3217 from $1.3240.