Asian markets lower as profit-taking offsets US data

PHOTO: Asian markets lower as profit-taking offsets US data

HONG KONG - Asian markets mostly fell on Monday as last week's gains prompted profit-taking, overshadowing Friday's Wall Street rally and upbeat US job creation figures.

The yen rose slightly against the dollar and euro, although it remains under pressure on expectations the Japanese central bank will further loosen monetary policy.

TOKYO - which on Friday hit its highest level since before the quake and tsunami of March 2011 - slipped 0.83 per cent, giving up 89.10 points to 10,599.01. Sydney shed 0.14 per cent, or 6.5 points to 4,717.3 and Seoul was flat, dipping 0.68 points to 2011.26.

Hong Kong finished flat, dipping 1.34 points to 23,329.75, but Shanghai closed up 0.37 per cent, or 8.37 points, at 2,285.36, with traders optimistic about upcoming data, including inflation and trade figures, due out of Beijing soon.

"With the major indexes having run up so far so fast, alarm bells have sounded about technical overheating," an equity trading director at a foreign brokerage told Dow Jones Newswires.

"Some players want to take some cash off the table... but demand remains strong overall, and this does not look like a tipping point in terms of a more profound sell-off."

Traders cashed in after shares jumped last week in the wake of the deal in Washington to avert the fiscal cliff of tax hikes and spending cuts that economists had warned would tip the United States into recession.

Providing some buying support was news out of Washington on Friday showing the world's biggest economy added 155,000 jobs in December. While the figure is not huge and was in line with expectations, it does show some confidence.

In addition the latest ISM index on the service sector showed unexpected growth in December, the fastest in 10 months, led by new orders and employment.

Wall Street closed higher on the news. The Dow finished up 0.33 per cent and the Nasdaq was flat, while the S&P 500 advanced 0.49 per cent to its highest close since December 31, 2007.

On currency markets the dollar eased against the yen after hitting its strongest point against the Japanese unit in more than two years last week. The greenback stood at 87.82 yen in afternoon Tokyo trade compared with 88.15 yen (S$1.23) in New York late Friday.

The euro was at 114.57 yen and $1.3043 from 115.19 yen and $1.3067.

Oil prices were lower with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in February, shedding 29 cents to $92.80 a barrel. Brent North Sea crude for February lost 10 cents to $111.21.

Gold was at $1,653.11 at 0800 GMT compared with $1,628.82 late Friday.

In other markets:

  • Taipei fell 0.65 per cent, or 50.90 points, to 7,755.09. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co was 0.99 per cent lower at Tw$100.5 while leading integrated circuits design house MediaTek Inc dropped 1.31 per cent to Tw$301.5.
  • Manila surged 1.23 per cent, or 73.46 points, to 6,044.91.
  • Wellington closed 0.24 per cent higher, adding 9.80 points to 4,084.84. Ryman rose 2.4 per cent to an all-time high of NZ$4.80, while Telecom was up 0.69 per cent at NZ$2.195 and Air New Zealand was flat at NZ$1.31.