Asian markets up, Tokyo soars on weak yen

PHOTO: Asian markets up, Tokyo soars on weak yen

HONG KONG - Asian markets were mostly up on Friday with Japanese stocks jumping to their highest level in more than five years after the dollar surged above the 100 yen mark and US jobs data boosted sentiment.

Tokyo closed up 2.93 per cent, or 416.06 points, at 14,607.54 following the dollar's overnight topping of 100 yen for the first time since April 2009, underscoring the Japanese currency's sharp decline in recent months.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index had earlier soared 3.09 per cent in mid-morning trade. Its close was the best since January 4, 2008 when it ended at 14,691.41.

Sydney gained 0.15 per cent, or 7.7 points, to 5,206.1, Shanghai increased 0.62 per cent, or 13.86 points, to 2,246.83, while Hong Kong added 0.47 per cent, or 109.74 points, at 23,321.22.

Seoul bucked the trend, falling 1.75 per cent, or 34.7 points, to 1,944.75, led by worries amongst South Korean automakers about the weak yen cheapening Japan's exports.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's big government spending and aggressive central bank monetary easing to reflate the world's third-largest economy after years of deflation continued to depress the country's currency.

The yen has plunged about 30 per cent against the dollar since late last year and the weakening has accelerated in the wake of the aggressive bond-buying programme unveiled in April by the Bank of Japan.

The greenback in Asian trade Friday added to Thursday's gains in New York, with the dollar changing hands at 101.08 yen against 100.55 yen.

In late September 2012 it was as low as 77.25 yen.

The euro also climbed against the Japanese currency Friday, at 131.75 from 131.17 in New York, while the single European unit was at $1.3039 from $1.3044.

"The dollar's breach of the 100 yen level is iconic and will automatically draw more interest to Japan as a potential equity investment destination," a fund manager at a foreign asset management company told Dow Jones Newswires.

The dollar was also aided by fresh figures for US jobless claims Thursday, which fell to a seasonally adjusted 323,000 last week, their lowest level since mid-January 2008, the Labor Department reported.

"The strong US jobs data showed more proof that the US economy is on the rebound, a powerful fundamental theme that should, along with the weaker yen, keep the (Tokyo) market bullish," said Hiroichi Nishi of SMBC Nikko Securities.

US stocks fell overnight as dealers took a breather after several successive record closes.

The Dow fell 0.15 per cent, the S&P 500 dropped 0.37 per cent and the Nasdaq gave up 0.12 per cent to 3,409.17.

Europe's main stock markets rose slightly after opening Friday ahead of the start of a G7 meeting of finance ministers and central bank chiefs in Britain later in the day.

Frankfurt added 0.19 per cent, Paris gained 0.15 per cent and London was flat.

Oil was down with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in June shedding 55 cents to $95.84 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for June delivery down 45 cents at $104.02 in the afternoon.

Gold was at $1,447.50 an ounce at 1040 GMT compared with $1,472.00 late Thursday.

In other markets:

Taipei was flat, losing 5.63 points to 8,280.26. HTC fell 1.76 per cent to Tw$279.0 while TSMC was 0.43 per cent lower at Tw$114.5.

Wellington rose 0.29 per cent, or 13.44 points, to 4,652.78. Debutant Mighty River Power opened up 9.2 per cent on its initial offer price at NZ$2.73 before closing at NZ$2.62.

Manila rose 0.94 per cent, or 67.95 points, to 7,262.38. Philippine Long Distance Telephone added 0.39 per cent to 3,128 pesos while San Miguel Corp. rose 0.65 per cent to 123 pesos.

Singapore rose 0.32 per cent, or 10.99 points, to close at 3,443.77. DBS Bank gained 1.13 per cent to Sg$17.90 while Singapore Telecom dropped 0.26 per cent to S$3.91.

Jakarta ended up 0.33 per cent, or 16.60 points, at 5,105.94. Cigarette maker Gudang Garam rose 3.36 per cent to 53,800 rupiah, while food manufacturer Indofood Sukses Makmur fell 2.04 per cent to 7,200 rupiah.

Bangkok added 0.08 per cent, or 1.36 points, to 1,622.48. Supermarket operator BigC Supercenter lost 8.16 per cent to 225.00 baht, while media company BEC World added 3.94 per cent to 72.50 baht.

Kuala Lumpur gained 0.36 per cent, or 6.31 points, to 1,772.38. Kuala Lumpur Kepong rose 0.1 per cent to 21.70 ringgit, while YTL Corp added 6.7 per cent to 1.79.

Mumbai rose 0.72 per cent, or 143.58 points, to 20,082.62. Carmaker Maruti Suzuki rose 4.17 per cent to 1,729 rupees while rival Tata Motors rose 2.85 per cent to 308.25 rupees.