Asian markets mixed, yen sinks

Asian markets mixed, yen sinks
News photographer takes pictures of monitors displaying the Japanese yen's exchange rate against the U.S. dollar and the Nikkei share average at a foreign exchange trading company in Tokyo.

HONG KONG - Asian shares were mixed Friday following another record close on Wall Street, while the yen tumbled against the euro and the dollar.

The yen sank further in Asia as speculation of more Bank of Japan monetary easing weighed on the unit, while upbeat US data supported the greenback.

Tokyo closed flat, edging up 4.50 points to 16,178.94, while Seoul gained 0.15 per cent, or 2.98 points, to 2,002.28. Sydney also ended flat, slipping 0.06 per cent, or 3.1 points, to 5,324.1.

Chinese shares climbed 1.36 per cent, or 28.15 points, to 2,101.25, while Hong Kong gained 0.27 per cent, or 63.69 points, to 23,243.24.

Late buying pushed Tokyo's Nikkei back into positive territory and a fresh six-year high, while a weaker yen also boosted the market.

The dollar was trading around five-year highs in Tokyo, buying 104.75 yen (S$1.266) against 104.82 yen in New York Thursday.

The US unit briefly topped the 105 yen mark earlier Friday, its highest since October 2008.

"Yen-selling pressure appears strong. It would be no surprise to see the dollar rise to 110 yen in the January-March quarter," Yosuke Hosokawa, a dealer at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank, told Dow Jones Newswires.

New data published Friday also showed that Japan's war on deflation got a boost last month as consumer inflation rose 1.2 per cent - its fastest pace in five years.

The euro also jumped past five-year highs to 144.47 yen from 143.51 yen in US trade while it fetched US$1.3733 from US$1.3692.

Singapore closed up 0.49 per cent, or 15.40 points, at 3,149.76.

United Overseas Bank rose 0.81 per cent to S$21.16 while Singapore Airlines gained 0.88 per cent to S$10.32.

On Thursday US stock markets continued their bull run of 2013 and positive unemployment figures offered more evidence of a firming economy.

The Dow shot up 0.75 per cent to 16,479.88, finishing at a record high for the sixth straight session. The S&P 500 added 0.47 per cent to 1,842.02, while the Nasdaq increased 0.28 per cent to 4,167.18.

The latest record came after US Labor Department data showed first-time claims for unemployment benefits fell to 338,000 from an adjusted 380,000 the previous week. Analysts had projected that 350,000 claims would be filed.

Other better-than-expected economic news in recent days has increased confidence in the US outlook after the Federal Reserve announced on December 18 it was scaling back its massive bond-buying programme.

On oil markets New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate for February delivery, was up six cents at US$99.61 in afternoon trade while Brent North Sea crude for February eased 24 cents to US$111.74.

Gold fetched US$1,211.56 at 1100 GMT compared with US$1,205.50 late Thursday.

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