Asian stocks mixed, Tokyo hits 32-month high

Asian stocks mixed, Tokyo hits 32-month high

HONG KONG - Asian shares were mixed Tuesday on a lack of direction from Wall Street, but Tokyo hit a 32-month high on hopes for new central bank easing despite giving up early gains as the yen rebounded.

Some bourses advanced early in the session on reassurances from Fed chief Ben Bernanke that quantitative easing was set to continue in the United States, only to lose ground later in the day.

Tokyo put on 0.72 per cent, or 77.51 points, to 10,879.08 - its highest level since April 30, 2010 - and Shanghai added 0.60 per cent to 2,325.68, as environmental firms rose on hopes they will benefit from recent bad pollution.

But Seoul was off 1.16 per cent, or 23.30 points, to 1,983.74, led by falls in technology stocks due to a stronger won, and Hong Kong shed 0.14 per cent, or 31.75 points, to 23,381.15.

Sydney closed flat, edging down 3.1 points to 4,716.6.

The Japanese currency, which has fallen in recent weeks as new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed to push monetary easing, rebounded after Japan's economy minister warned about the weak yen.

Akira Amari told reporters the recent weakening "might help exports, but it could also have negative effects on the lives of the public" by making imports more expensive.

The dollar - which changed hands at 89.56 yen in morning trade and 89.45 yen in New York on Monday - dropped to 88.84 yen after Amari's comments.

The rise in the yen pared some of the gains in Tokyo, which had earlier been up more than 1.2 per cent.

A weaker Japanese unit boosts exporters by making their products cheaper overseas and increasing the value of their repatriated foreign income.

Nevertheless the bourse ended strongly after the Bank of Japan governor earlier in the day pledged "aggressive" easing to boost the moribund economy, fuelling speculation the bank could launch new measures after a meeting next week.

The BoJ has been under heavy pressure from Abe's government to adopt an annual two per cent inflation target to fight chronic deflation that has haunted the world's third largest economy for years.

There was a note of relief on markets after US Federal Reserve chief Bernanke indicated on Monday, after Asian markets had closed, that the US central bank's latest round of quantitative easing would continue, dealers said.

Asian traders were also looking ahead to fourth-quarter Chinese growth data due to be released on Friday, which analysts hope will confirm that the world's number two economy is picking up following a slowdown.

There was no clear lead from Wall Street, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining 0.14 per cent, but the broad-based S&P 500 falling 0.09 per cent and the Nasdaq Composite shedding 0.26 per cent.

On forex markets in Asian afternoon trade, the euro slipped to 118.75 yen from 119.65 yen in New York. Against the dollar, the euro dipped to US$1.3367 from US$1.3376 in US trading.

Oil prices fell. New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in February, slipped 32 cents to $93.82 a barrel in the afternoon and Brent North Sea crude for February delivery dipped 23 cents to US$111.65.

Gold was at US$1,683.22 at 0830 GMT compared with US$1,668.39 late Monday.

In other markets:

Wellington rose 0.41 per cent, or 17.04, to 4,170.96.

Fletcher Building was up 0.23 per cent at NZ$8.88, Mainfreight added 1.02 per cent to NZ$11.92 and Telecom Corp was down 0.21 per cent to close at NZ$2.33.

Taipei fell 0.75 per cent, or 58.95 points, to 7,765.02.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co shed 1.47 per cent to Tw$100.5 while leading smartphone maker HTC was 1.20 per cent lower at Tw$287.5.

Manila lost 0.10, or 6.23 points, to 6,087.67.

Top-traded Ayala Corp fell 1.85 per cent to 530 pesos while Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co dropped 0.56 per cent to 107 pesos.

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