Asia stocks mostly down, weak yen lifts Tokyo


HONG KONG: Asian stocks mostly fell on Thursday tracking a sell-off on Wall Street and oil consolidated after hitting a six-month high, but Tokyo’s Nikkei bounced into positive territory thanks to a softer yen.

Traders moved cautiously following weak earnings in the US and Japan and a shaky performance in Asia Wednesday during which an early rally petered towards the end of the day.

Tokyo’s Nikkei ended 0.4 percent higher as the yen eased on speculation the Bank of Japan will boost its stimulus program.

The dollar rose to 108.95 yen in afternoon trade—up from 108.39 yen in New York—after speculation began circulating that the central bank could further ease monetary policy as soon as next month.

However, Toyota tumbled after warning that its annual net profit is set to fall by about a third owing to recent yen gains and an emerging market slowdown.

Scandal-hit Mitsubishi shares soared 16 percent after Nissan Motor confirmed on
Thursday that it was in talks for a capital tie-up with the firm. After the market closed Nissan said it would buy a 34-percent stake in a deal valued at about $2.2 billion.

Hong Kong shed 0.7 percent in late trade and Shanghai ended marginally lower ahead of the release of fresh economic indicators out of China this week.

A disappointing trade report at the weekend revived concerns about the world’s second largest economy, while there are fears Beijing will hold off introducing any fresh stimulus after a government warning over debt levels.

Investors cautious
Sydney slipped 0.2 percent and Seoul retreated 0.1 percent.

“There’s just enough out there to keep investors cautious,” Tim Schroeders, a portfolio manager in Melbourne at Pengana Capital, told Bloomberg News.

“We’ve got earnings disappointments and currency volatility so people are sitting back and waiting as opposed to continuing with the frenzy.”

Most energy firms climbed after the Department of Energy said US crude stockpiles slid 3.4 million barrels last week, sparking an oil price rally. Analysts’ consensus had been for a rise of 750,000 barrels.

West Texas Intermediate jumped 3.5 percent Wednesday while Brent climbed 4.6 percent, putting both contracts around levels not seen since November.

On Thursday Brent was up 0.1 percent and WTI gained 0.2 percent.

In Hong Kong energy giant CNOOC and PetroChina posted healthy gains while Sydney-listed BHP Billiton put on 0.2 percent and Woodside Petroleum rallied 2.4 percent.

The euro was at $1.1407, down from $1.1426 Wednesday as Europe saw waning optimism over bailout talks between Greece and the eurozone.

Enthusiasm about Greece seemingly on the way to unlocking fresh bailout money faded, leaving investors to fret about a possible fresh crisis.

In early European trade London and Frankfurt each fell 0.8 percent and Paris shed 0.5 percent.



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