Asian stocks mixed from weak Wall Street lead

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HONG KONG: Asian markets were mixed on Friday following another weak lead from Wall Street as investors await the release of key US jobs data, while Shanghai eased after China said its trade surplus shrank in December.

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The euro edged back up against the dollar and yen after a brief fall on Thursday, fueled by a warning from the head of the European Central Bank that the eurozone economy remained fragile.

Tokyo rebounded from earlier losses, thanks to a pick-up in the dollar against the yen. The Nikkei ended 0.20 percent, or 31.73 points higher at 15,912.06, and Hong Kong closed up 0.26 percent, or 58.92 points to 22,846.25.

However, Seoul finished down 0.39 percent, shedding 7.57 points to 1,938.54, and Sydney eased 0.23 percent, or 12.0 points to 5,312.4.

Shanghai fell 0.71 percent, or 14.32 points to 2,013.30.

With the US Federal Reserve holding its next policy meeting at the end of the month, investors are closely monitoring Friday’s jobs data to see if it will give the central bank more ammunition to further cut its stimulus.

The Fed’s most recent meeting saw it reduce its bond-buying scheme by $10 billion a month to $75 billion from January, citing a pick-up in the world’s number one economy.

On Wall Street, the three main indices ended mostly lower, with disappointing earnings from retailers adding some downward pressure.

The Dow fell 0.11 percent, the S&P 500 edged up 0.03 percent, and the Nasdaq eased 0.23 percent.

On forex markets, the euro held its own after suffering a sell-off on Thursday in response to European Central Bank (ECB) head Mario Draghi’s warning over the eurozone economy, as recent data spurred fears of deflation similar to that suffered by Japan in the past decade.

After announcing the bank would keep interest rates on hold despite the low inflation figures, Draghi said that the bloc’s “recovery is there, but it is weak, modest and fragile.”

He added that there remained “several risks—financial, economic, geopolitical, political—that could undermine easily this recovery.”

In a bid to soothe markets, Draghi said that the ECB was still “determined to maintain the high degree of monetary accommodation and to take further decisive action if required.”

The single currency slipped soon after the comments on Thursday—tumbling to 142 yen and $1.3548 at one point—before staging a rebound later in the day to 142.58 yen and $1.3606.

In afternoon Tokyo trade on Friday, it fetched 142.78 yen and $1.3608.

The dollar was changing hands at 104.95 yen compared with 104.79 yen in New York City.

Investors were also digesting figures showing China’s trade surplus narrowed in December by 17.4 percent to $25.64 billion. Exports grew just 4.3 percent year-on-year during the month, much slower than the 12.7 percent jump seen in November.

However, the data did showed that China’s total trade broke the $4-trillion mark for the first time.

The results came a day after the government announced inflation in 2013 came in at 2.6 percent, well below the government’s target ceiling of 3.5 percent and reducing the chances of monetary tightening any time soon.

AFP

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