Asia shares mostly down, dollar under pressure

GMT 04:46 2014 Friday ,30 May

Arab Today, arab today Asia shares mostly down, dollar under pressure

Asia shares mostly down, dollar under pressure
Hong Kong - AFP

Asian markets mostly fell Friday, with Tokyo hit by a stronger yen and data that showed household spending tumbling after a sales tax hike, while investors await the release of key manufacturing data next week.
Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei index fell 0.34 percent, or 49.34 points to finish at 14,632.38, while, while the Topix index of all first-section shares ended flat, inching up 0.06 percent, or 0.73 points, to 1,201.41.
Despite Friday's downturn, the headline index logged its first monthly gain of 2014, rising 2.29 percent. The Nikkei is still down 10 percent since the start of the year.
Before the market opened, the government released a mixed bag of economic data that showed April factory output and household spending were lower than expected while the jobless rate was at its lowest level in nearly seven years.
"For investors to get excited about stocks, they need a sense of clarity about the economic environment -- it's hard for them to invest in 'shades of grey'," CLSA equity strategist Nicholas Smith told Dow Jones Newswires.
An equity trading director at a European brokerage said a stronger yen made "profit-taking too hard to resist after six straight days of Nikkei gains".
The string of data Friday was not bad enough to spark hopes for imminent monetary easing by the Bank of Japan, which would tend to weaken the yen and lift stocks, the trader said. A weaker yen boosts the profitability of major exporters such as Toyota and Sony.
In Tokyo stocks trade, market heavyweight Fast Retailing, operator of the Uniqlo clothing chain, fell 1.24 percent to 33,590 yen, Japan Airlines lost 0.58 percent to 5,310 yen while Mitsubishi slipped 0.19 percent to finish at 2,009 yen.
Toyota rose 1.73 percent to 5,761 yen and Honda gained 0.82 percent to 3,563 yen following Thursday's better-than expected domestic auto output figures for April.
Hong Kong's benchmark Hang Seng Index rose 71.51 points or 0.31 percent to 23,081.65, while in China the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index was flat, dipping 1.39 points to 2,039.21. The index moved up 0.23 percent for the week.
The Shenzhen Composite Index, which tracks stocks on China’s second exchange, gained 0.30 percent, or 3.17 points, to 1,053.75, rising 1.28 percent for the week.
The Seoul market slipped 0.86 percent, or 17.30 points to 1,994.96. Sydney also closed down, losing 0.49 percent, or 27 points, to end at 5,492.5.
Japanese household spending in April fell 13.3 percent from March, official data showed, marking the biggest monthly drop since March 2011 when the country was hit by a quake-tsunami disaster.
The slump came in the same month a government hike in sales tax -- from five percent to eight percent -- took effect despite warnings that it could hit a nascent economic recovery.
Also, the government said inflation accelerated to 3.2 percent year on year in April from 1.3 percent in March, largely owing to the effects of the tax rise.
The news comes as Bank of Japan weighs up whether to unveil fresh easing measures to support the economy after the tax rise, with fears that further widening of the monetary base could fan inflation to more than its target of 2.0 percent.
US stocks climbed on Thursday as investors brushed off news that the world's biggest economy shrank 1.0 percent in January-March.
Analysts said that while the drop was more than expected, market players noted it came during a severe winter freeze and that the economy was already firmly rebounding.
- Focus turns to PMI data -
There was also some cheer in figures showing new claims for unemploymnt insurance benefits fell sharply last week to 300,000, pulling the trend line to its lowest level in nearly seven years.
The S&P 500 added 0.54 percent to close at another record high, while the Dow rose 0.39 percent and the Nasdaq gained 0.54 percent.
Focus is now on the release next week of HSBC's closel watched purchasing managers index (PMI) of manufacturing activity from China, the United States and Europe, hoping for signs of further improvement. China is also due to unveil its own official PMI on Sunday.
With last month's readings for China showing a firm pick-up, there are hopes of another healthy result for May that would ease concerns over the Asian economic giant.
In foreign exchange trade the dollar slipped to 101.68 yen from 101.78 yen Thursday in New York, where investors left the greenback after the GDP data.
The euro bought $1.3610 and 138.39 yen against $1.3601 and 138.44 yen.
Oil prices were lower. US benchmark, West Texas Intermediate for delivery in July, was down 37 cents at $103.21 a barrel after rallying 86 cents in Yew York Thursday. Brent North Sea crude for July eased 12 cents to $109.85.
Gold fetched $1,254.44 an ounce at 0820 GMT compared with $1,254.15 late Thursday.
In other markets:
-- Taipei fell 0.36 percent, or 33.09 points, to 9,075.91.
Smartphone maker HTC shed 2.14 percent to Tw$160.0 while Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. was 2.05 percent lower at Tw$119.5.
-- Wellington was flat, edging down 4.73 points to 5,178.44.
Fletcher Building was off 2.08 percent at NZ$8.95 and Contact Energy was down 0.18 percent at NZ$5.45.
-- Manila closed 0.43 percent, or 29.02 points, lower at 6,647.65.
Megaworld gained 3.75 percent to 4.70 pesos while Aboitiz Power dropped 2.70 percent to 36 pesos.

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