Asian markets mixed, yen flat after BoJ vote

Asian markets mixed, yen flat after BoJ vote

HONG KONG - Asian markets were mixed on Friday following another strong lead from Wall Street, where traders took heart from more upbeat US jobs numbers.

The yen was flat against the dollar after Japanese lawmakers gave final approval to the government's nominees to take the helm at the Bank of Japan, with expectations high that it will usher in more aggressive monetary easing.

Tokyo rose 1.45 per cent, or 179.76 points, to 12,560.95 - its highest level since September 2008, while Sydney bounced back from three days of losses to register its biggest rise since July, adding 1.75 per cent, or 88.0 points, to close at 5,120.2.

Hong Kong was 0.38 per cent lower, losing 86.07 points to end at 22,533.11 while Shanghai closed up 0.36 per cent, or 8.12 points, at 2,278.40.

However, Seoul fell 0.78 per cent, or 15.63 points, to 1,986.50.

On Wall Street, traders welcomed US Labor Department data showing new claims for unemployment benefits fell last week for the third week in a row, signalling continuing improvement in the jobs market.

The S&P 500, which includes all major segments of the US economy, climbed 0.56 per cent to end just short of its all-time high close set in October 2007.

And the Dow was up 0.58 per cent, breaking its all-time record for the eighth straight day. It was the Dow's 10th consecutive rise.

However, while the unemployment numbers were welcomed, the dollar fell to 96.08 yen (S$1.25) in New York from 96.40 yen in Asia earlier Thursday.

In Tokyo Friday the dollar fetched 96.07 yen.

The upper house of Japan's parliament gave the green light to Haruhiko Kuroda as Bank of Japan governor, as well as to Kikuo Iwata and Hiroshi Nakaso as his deputies.

The men are expected to usher in a new era for the BoJ as Tokyo demands more action to boost the world's third-biggest economy, with Kuroda saying he will do all he can to achieve the bank's new 2.0 per cent inflation target.

Focus will now be trained on the bank's next policy meeting next month to see what tools the new leadership will use to jumpstart the Japanese economy and drag it out of deflation.

The euro bought US$1.3026 (S$1.63) and 125.11 yen against US$1.3000 and 124.91 yen.

In Seoul, electronics giant Samsung fell 2.63 per cent after it unveiled its new Galaxy S4 smartphone in New York late Thursday with a bigger screen and a new eye-tracking device.

However, Bae Seung-Young of Hyundai Securities told AFP: "It's not because the Galaxy S4 failed to meet expectations. It's just that investors feel technical smartphone upgrades are flattening out."

Oil prices rose, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in April up 13 cents to US$93.16 a barrel in the afternoon, while Brent North Sea crude for May gained 24 cents to US$109.20.

Gold was at US$1,592.60 an ounce at 1050 GMT compared with US$1,584.80 late Thursday.

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