Asian shares mixed as US, Europe sentiment weakens

August 31, 2011
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, HONG KONG, Aug 31 – Asian markets were mixed Wednesday following a two-day rally as weak consumer confidence data from the United States and Europe outweighed renewed hopes for a fresh round of US monetary easing.

Sydney rose 0.56 percent, or 27.3 points, to 4,296.5 while Tokyo ended flat, edging up 1.30 points to 8,955.20 and Seoul climbed 1.97 percent, or 36.29 points, to 1,880.11.

Shanghai added 0.19 percent in the afternoon while Hong Kong was 0.92 percent higher.

Wall Street eked out a third day of gains after minutes from the Federal Reserve policy-setting board’s last meeting suggested new stimulus measures were likely as they showed members discussing the best way forward.

The committee has been deeply split between those who believe the Fed should further loosen monetary policy and those who fear such steps would raise the risk of inflation.

The latest Federal Open Market Committee minutes suggested opponents were swaying due to the state of the US economy, said Marc Pado, chief US market strategist for Cantor Fitzgerald.

The Dow added 0.18 percent, the S&P 500 edged 0.23 percent higher and the Nasdaq Composite rose 0.55 percent.

Expectations of some sort of stimulus have been building since last week when Fed chief Ben Bernanke said Friday the central bank would not immediately begin monetary easing but would keep the door open for such a move when needed.

Markets have been rallying since the weekend but consumer data from the US and Europe on Tuesday brought dealers back down to Earth.

US consumer confidence plunged in August to its lowest level in more than two years due to concerns over the outlook for the economy as well as the political standoff over the nation’s debt this month, a survey said Tuesday.

The Conference Board consumer confidence index tumbled almost 15 points from July to 44.5, the lowest since April 2009.

And in Europe, consumer and business confidence also slumped in August, the sixth consecutive monthly loss, according to a European Union poll, as the region continues to struggle with its debt crisis.

The decline resulted from a “broad-based deterioration in sentiment across the sectors,” particularly in services, retail trade and among consumers, the European Commission said. Only the construction sector saw an improvement.

On currency markets the dollar fetched 76.55 yen in Tokyo trade against 76.70 yen in New York late Tuesday.

The euro was at $1.4428 compared with $1.4437. The European common currency fell to 110.46 yen from 110.77 yen.

Oil was mixed amid concerns over geopolitical tensions after Iran dispatched ships to the Red Sea on a patrol mission saying it would “display the capabilities of the Islamic Republic of Iran”.

New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in October, fell 36 cents to $88.54 per barrel in the afternoon while Brent North Sea crude for October gained a cent to $114.03.

Gold opened at $1,831.00-$1,832.00 an ounce in Hong Kong, up from Tuesday’s close of $1,793.00-$1,794.00.

In other markets:

— Taipei rose 1.24 percent, or 95.17 points, to 7,741.36.

Hon Hai Precision rose 6.85 percent to Tw$73.3 despite a sharp decline of 23 percent in net profit in the three months to June. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co was 0.58 percent higher at Tw$69.4.

— Manila rose 1.00 percent, or 42.94 points, to 4,348.50.

Dealers went on a buying spree as they played catch up with the rest of the region after the market was closed for a four-day weekend.

However, analysts expect selling in the next few days after the government said the economy grew by a disappointing 3.4 percent in the three months to June.

Lepanto Consolidated Mining saw its “A” shares rise 1.9 percent to 1.61 pesos but top-traded Universal Robina bucked tumbled 2.58 percent to 39.70 pesos.

— Wellington closed 0.16 percent, or 5.34 points, higher at 3,323.07.

Insurer Tower Limited jumped 5.7 percent to NZ$1.48 and Telecom dived 6.96 percent to NZ$2.54.

— Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Mumbai are all closed for public holidays.

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