by Danny McCord
Hong Kong, Jan 31, 2013 (AFP) – Asian markets were mixed Thursday, with late buying offsetting earlier falls that had been fuelled by losses on Wall Street as US data showed the economy shrank in the final three months of 2012.
The surprise numbers from Washington, the first contraction since mid-2009, saw the dollar weaken further after suffering a sell-off in New York trade.
Tokyo rose 0.22 percent, or 24.71 points, to 11,138.66 and Shanghai added 0.12 percent, or 2.95 points, to 2,385.42. But Seoul slipped 0.13 percent, or 2.49 points, to 1,961.94 and Sydney lost 0.37 percent, or 17.9 points, to 4,878.8.
In the afternoon Hong Kong shed 0.30 percent.
Most of the region’s indexes have enjoyed a strong month as dealers grow more confident about the global outlook, with Sydney enjoying its best January since 1994.
Investors were surprised by the US Commerce Department figures showing the world’s biggest economy shrank at an annual rate of 0.1 percent in the October-December quarter. Forecasts had been for a 1.0 percent rise.
However, the Federal Reserve, wrapping up a two-day policy meeting, dismissed the contraction as “transitory”, noting the economy had “paused” in recent months.
The Fed stayed the course on its ultra-loose monetary policy as expected, saying growth should be moderate moving ahead.
On Wall Street the Dow, which ended Tuesday just short of its all-time high, fell 0.32 percent, while the S&P 500 shed 0.39 percent and the Nasdaq slipped 0.35 percent.
SMBC Nikko Securities general manager of equities Hiroichi Nishi told Dow Jones Newswires: “The (US) numbers will likely be treated as a bit of a one-off, as they masked stronger consumer and business spending and progress in the housing recovery.”
On currency markets the greenback bought 90.87 yen in afternoon Asian trade, from 91.05 yen late Wednesday in New York. The US unit is well down from the 91.40 seen earlier Wednesday in Asia.
The euro was at 123.14 yen and $1.3560 against 123.54 yen and $1.3564.
In, Japan the government released figures showing factory production rose 2.5 percent in December month on month.
Despite coming up short of expectations of a 4.0 percent rise the economy ministry said the data indicated “industrial production shows signs of having bottomed out”.
Oil prices rose, with New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March, up two cents to $97.96 a barrel. Brent North Sea crude for March delivery gained 24 cents to $115.14 in the afternoon.
Gold was at $1,678.60 at 0700 GMT compared with $1,666.55 late Wednesday.
In other markets:
– Taipei rose 0.22 percent, or 17.04 points, to 7,850.02.
Leading smartphone maker HTC was 0.52 percent higher at Tw$291.5 while Hon Hai Precision shed 0.59 percent to end at Tw$84.4.
– Wellington rose 0.12 percent, or 5.10 points, to 4,252.65.
NZ Oil & Gas gained 1.7 percent to NZ$0.91, Fletcher Building added 1.4 percent to NZ$9.52 and Air New Zealand was up 0.40 percent at NZ$1.25 while Telecom climbed 1.25 percent to NZ$2.43.
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