Saturday, August 18, 2012

Asian markets mostly up on Merkel comments

HONG KONG: Asian markets were mostly higher and the euro enjoyed strong support Friday as spirits were lifted by comments from German Chancellor Angela Merkel reasserting her desire to save the eurozone.

Tokyo's Nikkei added to the previous day's healthy gains, advancing 0.77 per cent, or 69.74 points, to 9,162.20 as the yen eased further against the dollar with dealers confident enough to move out of the safe haven Japanese unit.

Sydney climbed 0.92 per cent, or 39.9 points, to 4,370.1 but Seoul eased 0.58 per cent, or 11.37 points, to 1,946.54.

Hong Kong added 0.77 per cent, to 153.12 points, to 20,116.07 and Shanghai climbed 0.13 per cent, or 2.69 points, to 2,114.89.

Merkel, who as head of Europe's biggest economy is key to the success of any plan to save the euro, said Thursday she backed European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi's commitment to do whatever was needed to support the currency.

On a visit to Canada she said: "What he said is something that we repeated time and again," since the Greece crisis began more than two years ago, "that we feel committed to do everything we can in order to maintain the common currency".

She said the ECB was "completely in line with what we've said all along" and its decision to set conditions on bond-buying was "a positive development for the euro-area".

The comments were seen by traders as a sign she could be warming to the idea of the ECB buying up bonds of troubled sovereign states such as Spain and Italy, which have seen their borrowing costs soar to danger levels recently.

Global markets have been enjoying gains over the past few weeks on expectations the bank will restart the bond-buying programme.

The euro was given a strong lift in New York on Merkel's remarks and it held up in Asia.

The single currency bought $1.2375 and 98.37 yen in early European trade, compared with $1.2358 and 98.06 yen in New York and well up from the $1.2270 and 97.15 yen it fetched in Asia Thursday.

The yen was also lower against the dollar, with the upbeat outlook providing support to riskier assets, while expectations of another round of US Federal Reserve pump priming are also easing.

The dollar fetched 79.47 yen, from 79.33 yen in New York late Thursday.

The greenback was helped by US data on new jobless claims and housing construction, which provided more evidence that the world's biggest economy is growing steadily, albeit slowly.

Weekly numbers for new unemployment insurance claims, an indicator of the pace of layoffs, came in as expected and in the same range as the past four months, while July data on new housing construction, although slightly down from June, showed an industry steadily picking up pace.

On Wall Street the Dow rose 0.65 per cent, the S&P 500 added 0.71 per cent and the Nasdaq climbed 1.04 per cent.

But Facebook shares plunged 6.3 per cent to a new low of $19.87 as the lockup period for sales by pre-IPO investors ended. The company's share price has almost halved since its May 18 initial share offering at $38.

Oil prices eased. New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) light sweet crude for delivery in September, was down 49 cents to $95.11 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for October delivery sank $1.12 to $114.15.

Gold was at $1,617.34 at 1030 GMT, compared to $1,604.00 on Thursday.

In other markets:

-- Singapore closed flat, dipping 0.78 points to 3,062.11.

Oil-rig maker Keppel Corp. was up 0.52 per cent at S$11.58 and property developer CapitaLand eased 0.98 per cent to S$3.03.

-- Taipei slipped 0.30 per cent, or 22.29 points, to 7,467.92.

TSMC fell 1.21 per cent to NT$82.0 while Formosa Plastics was 0.96 per cent lower at NT$82.7.

-- Manila closed 0.24 per cent lower, shedding 12.70 points to 5,206.81.

Metropolitan Bank and Trust fell 1.41 per cent to 91 pesos and Ayala Land lost 0.67 per cent to 22.30 pesos.

-- Wellington gained 0.65 per cent, or 23.46 points, to end at 3,639.66.

Fletcher Building rose 1.2 per cent to NZ$6.55 and Contact Energy gained 0.62 per cent to NZ$4.90 but Telecom slipped 2.5 per cent to NZ$2.69.

-- Kuala Lumpur was almost unchanged, nudging down 0.30 points to 1,649.79.

Axiata Group gained 2.0 per cent to 6 ringgit, YTL Corp was down 2.6 per cent at 1.86 ringgit and Petronas Dagangan lost 2.3 per cent to 22.38 ringgit.

-- Bangkok was flat, easing 0.49 points to 1,223.91.

Power firm EGCO dropped 2.50 per cent to 117.00 baht, while supermarket operator BIG C rose 2.74 per cent to 187.50 baht.

-- India's Sensex index rose 0.19 per cent or 33.87 points to 17,691.08.

Vehicle maker Tata Motors rose 2.12 per cent to 240.25 rupees, while IT outsourcer Infosys rose 1.61 per cent to 2,351.4 rupees.

-- Jakarta was closed for a public holiday.

- AFP/ck

Martin Koh | 86666 944 | R020968Z
Sherry Tang | 9844 4400 | R020241C
Senior Sales Director
DTZ Debenham Tie Leung (SEA) Pte Ltd (L3006301G)

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