Asian stock markets trod water yesterday, with solid economic data from the US providing support, but traders taking a wait-and-see attitude to Europe’s stabilisation efforts.
TOKYO’s Nikkei was flat, ending the session down just 7.46 points at 10,303.83 as it maintained its year-end buoyancy – the index has gained around 12 percent since November 1.
SYDNEY’s S&P/ASX 200 ended the session down 0.44 percent, or 20.9 points, at 4,763.1, while SHANGHAI’s Composite Index fell 0.15 percent, or 4.40 points, to 2,893.74.
Many smaller markets also ended the week with gains, with Seoul defying tensions on the Korean peninsula and Taipei touching a 31-month high at one point in the session.
US stocks closed higher Thursday after new claims for unemployment benefits fell last week to almost the lowest level of the year, while other data showed a 3.9 percent surge in construction of new US housing in November.
On Wall Street on Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.36 percent, while the broader S&P 500 rose 0.62 percent.
The US economic numbers were positive for the dollar – generally a good sign for Japanese stocks – while the euro also held up pending completion of a European summit intended to tackle the eurozone’s debt woes.
Traders appeared relatively relaxed about the eurozone’s problems.
“Equity markets appear less sensitive to European sovereign debt problems,” Jamie Spiteri, head of trading at Shaw Stockbroking in Sydney, told Dow Jones Newswires.
“Money is flowing into Australian equities before year-end and I see ongoing upside potential into the new year.”
HONG KONG: Stocks rose 0.20 percent yesterday as the market gained support from Wall Street and traders sought bargains.
The Hang Seng Index climbed 46.07 points to 22,714.85.
“A lot of fund managers made handsome profits during the rally from September to early November. Many have chosen to lock in profits…. There is no need for the traditional year-end window-dressing,” Eugene Law, head of research at Celestial Securities, said.
SINGAPORE: MOST Southeast Asian stock markets edged up yesterday in thin volume, helped by better economic news from the US.
In Singapore, the Straits Times Index rose 0.17 percent, or 5.34 points, to 3,153.01.
Shares in Contel Corp, a Chinese digital media products maker, jumped 33.3 percent, a day after it said it would be taken over by AuzMinerals Resource in a US$1.2 billion reverse takeover.
KUALA LAMPUR: The FTSE Bursa Malaysia Kuala Lumpur Composite Index (FBM KLCI) staged a mild technical pullback over the last five trading days. It stayed below its critical support of 1,500 points when it closed at 1,499.88 yesterday.
In other Asian markets yesterday:
* MANILA rose 0.44 percent, or 17.93 points, to 4,057.33.
* TAIPEI rose 0.41 percent, or 35.70 points, to 8,817.90.
* SEOUL rose 0.85 percent, or 17.06 points, to 2,026.30, supported by gains in financial and brokerage stocks.
* JAKARTA rose 0.28 percent, or 9.83 points, to 3,581.56.
* BANGKOK edged down 0.69 percent or 7.14 points to 1,022.46.
* MUMBAI was closed for a public holiday.
VIETNAM: The two bourses witnessed another impressive point-gaining session when the VN Index closed at 485.29 points, a day-on-day increase of 5.08 points or 1.06 percent. Sharing the same scenario, the index of Hanoi Stock Exchange (HNX) rose 4.27 points or 3.7 percent to 119.7 points.
EUROPE: European shares slipped yesterday, with investors cautious as concerns grew about the euro zone peripheral debt crisis, while AstraZeneca’s dropped as a key drug failed to win U.S. approval.
By 0957 GMT, the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index of top shares was 0.1 percent lower at 1,129.98 points after rising 0.4 percent in the previous session.
“There is still ongoing work to be done on the European Union crisis mechanism, I think once you start looking at the details, that is when the difficulties start to come in,” Jeremy Batstone-Carr, head of equities at Charles Stanley, said.
“Investors want to know about the size of it, what the terms are and who will contribute.”
Across Europe, the FTSE 100 index was 0.3 percent higher, Germany’s DAX gained 0.1 percent and France’s CAC 40 was 0.4 percent higher.
AMERICA: Stocks ended flat on Friday as investors shrugged off encouraging economic signs and a tax-cut package expected to lift economic growth. Trading ended shortly before President Barack Obama signed a tax bill into law.
Stocks wavered in a tight range Friday, a day after major indexes hit two-year highs.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 7.34 points, or 0.06 percent, to close at 11,491.91.
The broader S&P 500 eked out another 2010 high. The index rose 1.04, or 0.08 percent, to close at 1,243.91. The Nasdaq composite rose 5.66, or 0.2 percent, to 2,642.97.
Rising shares barely outpaced falling ones on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume was 2 billion shares.
The Dow gained 0.7 percent for the week. The S&P 500 rose 0.3 percent and the Nasdaq rose 0.2 percent.
Bond yields fell at the end of this year’s last full week of trading. The yield on the 10-year Treasury dropped to 3.33, after notching a seven-month high of 3.56 percent on Thursday. The 10-year yield is widely used by lenders to set borrowing rates for mortgages, corporate debt and other loans.
The dollar rose 0.3 percent against an index of six countries’ currencies.
Benchmark Currency Rates USD EUR JPY GBP CHF CAD AUD HKD HKD 7.7772 10.2566 0.0926 12.0800 8.0290 7.6700 7.6850 - AUD 1.0120 1.3346 0.0121 1.5719 1.0448 0.9980 - 0.1301 CAD 1.0140 1.3372 0.0121 1.5750 1.0468 - 1.0020 0.1304 CHF 0.9686 1.2775 0.0115 1.5045 - 0.9553 0.9572 0.1245 GBP 0.6438 0.8491 0.0077 - 0.6647 0.6349 0.6362 0.0828 JPY 83.9823 110.757 - 130.446 86.7013 82.8244 82.9871 10.7985 EUR 0.7583 - 0.0090 1.1778 0.7828 0.7478 0.7493 0.0975 USD - 1.3188 0.0119 1.5533 1.0324 0.9862 0.9881 0.1286 Bloomberg