Asian markets rise but Tokyo hit by strong yen

Asian markets rise but Tokyo hit by strong yen

HONG KONG - Asian shares mostly rose Friday following a sell-off in the previous session, but Tokyo was hit by a stronger yen and data showing Japan suffered its lowest current account surplus in nearly 30 years.

Data showing China's trade surplus had risen more than expected provided extra buying support, adding to a recent trend of improvement in the the world's number two economy.

Tokyo dived 1.80 per cent, or 203.91 points, to 11,153.16 while Sydney gained 0.72 per cent, or 35.6 points, to 4,971.3 and Seoul closed up 0.99 per cent, or 19.13 points, to 1,950.90.

Hong Kong rose 0.16 per cent, or 38.16 points, to 23,215.16 and Shanghai added 0.57 per cent, or 13.87 points, to 2,432.40.

Japan's Nikkei suffered a sell-off for a second straight day on profit-taking - after surging 3.77 per cent to a four-and-half-year high on Wednesday - and a stronger yen, which had fallen to multi-month lows.

"The market is due for another pullback as it remains overheated and ripe for profit-taking, especially with the holiday-extended three-day weekend coming up," said SMBC Nikko Securities general manager of equities Hiroichi Nishi.

"The 'energy' in the market remains very strong, however," he told Dow Jones Newswires.

Data on Friday showed the surplus in Japan's current account, the broadest measure of Tokyo's dealings with the rest of the world, nearly halved to 4.7 trillion yen (US$50 billion) in 2012, the smallest since 1985.

The figures showed exports to China and Europe slumped, with December seeing a monthly deficit of 264.1 billion yen, from a year-earlier surplus of 265.7 billion yen.

Zhang Zhiwei, a Hong Kong-based economist with Nomura International, said in a research note: "These data suggest that external and domestic demand are both strong, which supports our view that the economy is on track for a cyclical recovery in the first half" of this year.

In afternoon forex trade the dollar bought 92.37 yen, down from 93.61 yen in New York late Thursday, while the euro was at 123.80 yen, from 125.40 yen.

The Japanese unit had been as low as 94.06 and 127.71 earlier this week on a combination of expectations of further Bank of Japan monetary easing as well as rising confidence in the global outlook.

Europe's single currency also bought US$1.3401 from US$1.3395, having touched US$1.3711 last week.

Dealers moved to sell the euro after the European Central Bank held interest rates at record lows.

China's General Administration of Customs said the country's trade surplus rose in January, thanks to an improvement in exports and imports.

The surplus rose 7.7 per cent year-on-year to US$29.2 billion, beating a median US$26.6 billion forecast of economists in a Dow Jones Newswires survey.\

Customs also said exports surged 25.0 per cent to US$187.4 billion, while imports climbed 28.8 per cent to US$158.2 billion.

Later in the day the National Bureau of Statistics said inflation in January slowed to 2.0 per cent - in line with expectations - from a seven-month peak of 2.5 per cent in December.

On Wall Street the Dow fell 0.30 per cent, the S&P 500 lost 0.18 per cent and the Nasdaq eased 0.11 per cent.

Oil prices rose, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March, increasing 17 cents to US$96.00 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for March gaining 39 cents to US$117.63.

Gold was at US$1,670.25 at 1030 GMT compared with US$1,676.08 late Thursday.

In other markets:

Manila was flat, slipping 1.32 points to close at 6,458.67.

Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. added 0.27 per cent to 2,896 pesos and conglomerate Ayala Corp. rose 0.35 per cent to 564.50 pesos.

Wellington added 0.73 per cent, or 30.48 points, to 4,225.72.

Chorus surged 10.14 per cent to NZ$3.15 after government plans to regulate its prices were delayed, while Telecom Corp gained 1.95 per cent to NZ$2.35.

Singapore was 0.26 per cent, or 8.53 points, higher at 3,270.30.

Farm commodities supplier Olam rose 2.14 per cent to S$1.67 after it reported robust quarterly earnings but Singapore Airlines was down 0.72 per cent to S$11.07.

Jakarta shed 0.26 per cent, or 11.88 points, to 4,491.27.

Mining company Aneka Tambang dropped 0.72 per cent to 1,370 rupiah, Asia Pacific Fibres lost 1.02 per cent to 194 rupiah, while Hero Supermarket gained 0.97 per cent to 5,200 rupiah.

Kuala Lumpur gained 0.26 per cent, or 4.23 points, to 1,623.80.

Genting Malaysia rose 2.2 per cent to 3.78 ringgit, while Astro Malaysia Holdings fell 1.1 per cent to 2.76 ringgit.

Bangkok lost 0.17 per cent, or 2.51 points, to 1,497.30.

Telecom company True Corporation added 2.99 per cent to 6.90 baht, while Airports of Thailand jumped 2.70 per cent to 114.00 baht.

Mumbai slipped 0.49 per cent, or 95.55 points, to 19,484.77.

Drug giant Cipla fell 3.34 per cent to 380.9 rupees while Sterlite, the local arm of global resources giant Vedanta, fell 3.2 per cent to 101.25 rupees.

Taipei was closed for a public holiday.

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