Asian markets mostly up, Sydney hits 34-month high

Asian markets mostly up, Sydney hits 34-month high

HONG KONG - Asian markets were mostly up on Wednesday, with Sydney hitting a near three-year high, but Tokyo sank on profit-taking and as the yen picked up strength against the euro and dollar.

The Japanese currency picked up after a Group of Seven (G7) statement on Tuesday that said "excessive volatility" in exchange markets hurts financial stability, as they tried to calm talk of currency wars ahead of this week's G20 meeting.

Sydney jumped 0.90 per cent, or 44.7 points, to 5,003.7 - closing above the 5,000-point mark for the first time since April 2010 - and Seoul rose 1.56 per cent, or 30.28 points, to 1,976.07.

But Tokyo, which surged on Tuesday, fell 1.04 per cent, or 117.71 points, to 11,251.41.

Hong Kong, Shanghai and Taipei were closed for public holidays.

The G7 statement was published ahead of Friday's G20 in Moscow, where exchange rates are expected to figure prominently after Japan took steps to boost its economy and exports.

Japan's recent policy of monetary easing - which it has said is aimed at boosting the economy - has fuelled concerns around the world that countries will embark on a round of currency weakening to boost their exports.

But Tokyo on Tuesday rejected claims it was trying to force down the yen, saying the new conservative government's big spending and pressure on the central bank for aggressive easing was designed to stoke growth.

"There is no change in Japan's position," Finance Minister Taro Aso told reporters.

"Japan's new government is carrying out monetary policy and economic policy appropriately in order to pull out of a long-running, deflation-induced downturn. There is nothing more to say."

In early European trade the dollar bought 93.30 yen (S$1.24), while the euro was at 125.60 yen, compared with 93.47 yen and 125.75 yen late on Tuesday in New York.

That compares with 94.05 yen and 125.61 yen in Asia earlier on Tuesday.

The euro bought US$1.3458 (S$ 1.66) on Wednesday morning, compared with $1.3450 in US trade.

Hideyuki Ishiguro, senior strategist at Okasan Securities, said: "The yen may be on the agenda at the G20."

"Stocks are likely to face selling for now," he told Dow Jones Newswires.

Traders in Sydney were bullish thanks to strong earnings from Commonwealth Bank as well as data showing consumer confidence had hit its highest level since December 2010, which analysts said was fuelled by a spate of interest rate cuts last year.

Wall Street also provided a healthy lead ahead of US President Barack Obama's State of the Union address.

The Dow rose 0.34 per cent to its best close since October 2007, while the S&P 500 added 0.16 per cent to also reach a fresh five-year peak. The Nasdaq slipped 0.17 per cent.

Oil prices edged higher, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March up eight cents to US$97.59 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for March delivery gaining five cents to US$118.71.

Gold was at US$1,647.77 by 1035 GMT, compared with US$1,641.90 late Tuesday.

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