HONG KONG: Asian markets were mostly down Friday, ending three days of gains as the euro hit its lowest level in six months and a strong earthquake in Japan left investors rattled.
The euro fell lower than the levels seen after Britain’s shock decision to leave the European Union in June, following the ECB’s Thursday announcement that it would maintain the size and scope of its bond-buying program.
Players were watching closely to see if ECB chief Mario Draghi would hint at an extension—or a winding down—of the drip feed stimulus, with growth and inflation still lackluster.
But with no immediate policy change on the cards, traders are now looking to the next meeting in December.
A six-month extension to the ECB’s stimulus scheme, which is currently set to end in March 2017, is widely expected then.
“It’s a double-whammy from the ECB meeting,” Matt Simpson, a senior market analyst at ThinkMarkets in Singapore, told Bloomberg.
“Draghi didn’t talk tapering and suggested easing in December. That’s got traders pricing in a weaker euro.”
European stocks firmed in opening deals Friday, after ticking higher the day before on the ECB’s news, with Frankfurt and Paris ending flat and London adding 0.1 percent, buoyed by takeover activity in the tobacco industry.
Rattled by quake
Asian markets started the day positively as investors welcomed the ECB’s promise to maintain the status quo, but weak corporate earnings dragged on sentiment.
The final hour of trading in Tokyo was rattled by a strong 6.2-magnitude earthquake, sparking yen buying, which pushed down stocks.
“As often when there is an earthquake, the yen is bought” as Japanese investors repatriate funds, said Simon Pianfetti, a senior manager at the market solutions department at SMBC Trust Bank Ltd.
Computer-controlled orders are placed fast to react to news of earthquakes measuring greater than 6.0 magnitude or so, he told Bloomberg News.
The Nikkei 225 index, which was up at the lunch break, slipped 0.30 percent, or 50.91 points, to close at 17,184.59, ending a five-day winning streak.
The Topix index of all first-section issues was down 0.40 percent, or 5.51 points, at 1,365.29.
Topix-listed Nintendo plunged Friday as investors gave the thumbs down to its long-awaited new console.
The game maker’s shares dived 6.54 percent to 25,185 yen as markets reacted to a preview trailer for its new console ‘Switch’, seen as a key to its business as it tries to compete with Sony’s hugely popular PlayStation 4.
Shanghai closed slightly higher on Friday helped by buying of selective shares, dealers said.
The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.21 percent, or 6.48 points, to 3,090.94 on turnover of 202.0 billion yuan ($29.9 billion). It gained 0.89 percent for the week.
Singapore was also down after index heavyweight Keppel Corp—the world’s largest oil rig builder—announced
Thursday it was slashing over a quarter of jobs in its offshore and marine business.
Keppel slipped 0.13 percent on Friday.
South Korean shares fell 0.37 percent with Samsung falling nearly two percent as Apple’s iPhone7 hit stores across the country.
The benchmark KOSPI was down 7.60 points to close at 2,033.00 points.
Markets in Hong Kong were closed for the day as Typhoon Haima lashed the city, forcing schools and many businesses to shut.