Asian markets mostly up, weaker yen lifts Nikkei

Asian markets mostly up, weaker yen lifts Nikkei

HONG KONG - Asian markets were mostly higher on Wednesday, snapping a recent losing streak as the US corporate earnings season got off to a positive start with aluminium giant Alcoa reporting a large jump in profit.

The dollar and euro also picked up against the yen, providing strong support for the Nikkei index as the weakening Japanese currency spurred investors to buy exporter shares.

Tokyo closed up 0.67 per cent, or 70.51 points, at 10,578.57, Sydney ended 0.38 per cent higher, adding 17.9 points to 4,708.1 and Hong Kong ended up 0.46 per cent, adding 107.28 points to 23,218.47.

However, Seoul lost 0.31 per cent, or 6.13 points, to close at 1,991.81. And Shanghai ended flat, dipping 0.73 points to 2,275.34 owing to caution ahead of the release of key Chinese economic data later this week.

"There are some concerns that the mediocre performance in the global economy could affect trade and liquidity flows in China," Southwest Securities analyst Zhang Gang told Dow Jones Newswires.

On Thursday and Friday Beijing will release data on key indicators including inflation and trade, with hopes rising that the world's number two economy will show further signs of emerging from its recent slowdown.

Asian markets, which have seen a sell-off in the past few days, bounced following news Tuesday from Alcoa that it saw a profit of $242 million in the three months to December, compared with a year-earlier loss of $191 million.

The company also stayed in the black for the full year, despite aluminium prices falling 12 per cent.

"Alcoa's results are generally considered a bellwether for the global economy and the fact that the aluminium giant forecasts higher demand in 2013 appeased investors," noted Stan Shamu, a strategist at IG Market in Melbourne.

However Wall Street ended in negative territory. The Dow fell 0.41 per cent, the S&P 500 lost 0.32 per cent and the Nasdaq shed 0.23 per cent.

With immediate fiscal worries at bay after the United States last week dodged across-the-board tax hikes and automatic spending cuts, dealers are looking for fresh cues to spur buying.

On currency markets the yen weakened as importers and retail investors bought the euro and dollar for overseas purchases.

The dollar bought 87.64 yen in Asian trade, from 86.97 yen in New York late Tuesday.

The euro also bought 114.60 yen from 113.75, while sitting at $1.3083 from $1.3079.

"The yen's resurgence was not something unexpected after falling so much over such a protracted period," Yoshihiro Okumura, general manager at Chibagin Asset Management, told Dow Jones Newswires.

"The market expects that it will resume its weakening trajectory."

And Kuniyuki Hirai, foreign-exchange trading manager at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, said: "This is not a market where dollar-selling works. The fact is there are so many who have yet to buy dollars."

Oil prices were lower, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in February, dropping two cents to $93.13 a barrel while Brent North Sea crude for February also lost two cents to $111.92.

Gold was at $1,664.65 at 0830 GMT compared with $1,653.49 late Tuesday.

In other markets: - Taipei rose 16.98 points, or 0.22 per cent, to 7,738.64. Hon Hai Precision added 0.92 per cent to Tw$87.8 while TSMC was 0.3 per cent higher at Tw$100.0.

- Manila closed 0.70 per cent higher, adding 42.28 points to 6,091.18. Metropolitan Bank and Trust surged 2.22 per cent to 105.70 pesos, while Philippine Long Distance Telephone added 0.08 per cent to 2,648 pesos. BDO Unibank gained 0.47 per cent to 75.50 pesos.

- Wellington rose 0.32 per cent, or 13.17 points, to 4,103.54. Contact Energy fell 2.3 per cent to NZ$5.17 while Telecom was up 3.1 per cent at NZ$2.32 and Fletcher Building ended unchanged at NZ$8.45.

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