Tokyo surges on yen weakness but Asian shares fall

Tokyo surges on yen weakness but Asian shares fall

HONG KONG - Asian shares fell Friday after the previous day's gains but Tokyo hit a 23-month high as the yen sank further after Japan's new leaders unveiled a stimulus package worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

While the yen came under fresh selling pressure after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe outlined his economy-boosting plan, the euro was also lifted by unexpectedly positive comments about the eurozone by European Central Bank head Mario Draghi.

However, the latest inflation data out of China was unable to impress investors as much as the better-than-expected trade figures the previous day that indicate a pick-up in the world's number two economy.

Tokyo climbed 1.40 percent, or 148.93 points, to 10,801.57 - its highest level since February 2011, but Sydney fell 0.28 percent, or 13.5 points, to close at 4,709.5 and Seoul lost 0.50 percent, or 10.13 points to 1,996.67.

Hong Kong fell 0.39 percent, or 90.24 points, to 23,264.07 and Shanghai closed down 1.78 percent, or 40.66 points, at 2,243.00.

Abe, whose Liberal Democratic Party swept to power last month, set out a $226.5 billion stimulus to kick-start the limp economy with plans to rebuild tsunami-hit areas, beef up the military, boost employment and end deflation.

"With the measures, we will achieve real GDP growth of two percent and 600,000 jobs created," he said in a briefing.

Also Friday data showed that Japan logged a bigger-than-expected 222.4 billion yen deficit in November as exports to Europe and China dropped.

The events in Tokyo sent the yen tumbling.

The unit, which hit a record high of 75 against the dollar in late 2011, has been tumbling since Abe promised in his election campaign last year that he would unveil more stimulus and also urge the Bank of Japan for more aggressive monetary easing.

The dollar climbed to 89.34 yen at one point in Tokyo - its highest since June 2010 - before easing back to 89.01 yen, but still up from 88.64 in New York late Thursday.

The euro also surged to 118.56 yen in early Tokyo trade, breaking 118 yen for the first time since May 2011. It then retreated to 118.02 yen, from 117.53 yen in New York.

The single currency rose after the ECB decided not to cut interest rates, as some observers had expected, while Draghi said the eurozone was looking in better shape than last year.

Among a long list of positives, he pointed to lower bond yields, higher stock prices, record-low volatility, strong inflows into the eurozone, a halt of capital flight in peripheral countries and a reduction of the ECB's balance sheet.

"If you look at the overall landscape taking, let's say, a medium-term perspective... you will see a significant improvement in financial market conditions," he said.

He added that the debt crisis was not yet over, but said while the overriding fear last year had been one of "contagion" and that the crisis would deepen and spread, there was also "positive contagion when things go well".

Against the dollar the euro bought $1.3262, from $1.3261 in New York.

In China official figures showed inflation came in at 2.6 percent in 2012, down sharply from 5.4 percent the year before and much lower than the 4.0 percent target set by Beijing. And for December the rate hit 2.5 percent, in line with expectations.

While the data gives policymakers more room to loosen monetary policy, dealers were not as excited by the news as Thursday's figures that showed a huge jump in the trade surplus.

On Wall Street the Dow rose 0.60 percent, the S&P 500 advanced 0.76 percent and the Nasdaq added 0.51 percent.

Oil prices were mixed, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in February, gaining six cents to $93.88 a barrel in the afternoon, while Brent North Sea crude for February dropped 33 cents to $111.56.

Gold was at $1,670.10 at 0840 GMT compared with $1,662.87 late Thursday.

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