Asian markets mixed, Tokyo surges on yen tumble
Asian markets were mixed on Friday, with Tokyo’s Nikkei surging on the back of a weaker yen, while Wall Street provided an uneven lead.
The yen resumed its downtrend after a brief rally as the country’s vice finance minister indicated the new hawkish government would step in to stop the currency from returning to record highs against the dollar.
Tokyo surged 2.14 per cent, Hong Kong added 0.11 per cent and Sydney was 0.42 per cent higher while Shanghai climbed 0.10 per cent but Seoul lost 0.69 per cent.
Takehiko Nakao said the government was closely watching the yen’s movements in currency markets, adding that “appropriate action” would be taken if it got too strong.
His comments in an interview with the Wall Street Journal sent the yen tumbling Thursday in New York.
The US dollar jumped to 90.40 yen from 88.56 yen a day earlier, while the euro climbed 120.91 yen from 118.00 yen.
In early Japanese trade the dollar stood at 90.42 yen and the euro bought 120.87 yen. The single currency fetched $1.3371, from $1.3376 in New York.
“Nakao’s comments serve as a stark reminder of the government’s unrelenting drive to pursue a weaker currency in an attempt to resuscitate the economy,” Chris Gore, currency analyst at Go Markets said in a note to clients, according to Dow Jones Newswires.
The comments also capped a rise in the yen that began on Tuesday as dealers were left disappointed by the Bank of Japan’s plan, which had been widely expected, to set an inflation target to beat deflation, and pursue unlimited monetary easing.
Highlighting the work ahead, official data Friday showed the economy remained stuck in a deflationary rut, with core consumer prices slipping 0.1 per cent last year, the fourth annual decline.
While traders took heart from another rise on the Dow, which ended 0.33 per cent higher after figures were released showing weekly US jobless claims fell for a second straight week, Wall Street’s other two major indexes fared less well.
The S&P 500 was flat and the tech-rich Nasdaq fell 0.74 per cent, dragged by a 12 per cent plunge in Apple after the iPhone maker’s latest earnings report fell short of expectations.
Seoul, which fell on weak economic growth figures Thursday, took another hit on Friday after index giant Samsung Electronics posted below-forecast results for the October-December fourth quarter.
Oil prices fell, with New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March dropping eight cents to US$95.87 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for March delivery shedding 18 cents to US$113.10.
Gold was at US$1,667.10 at 0200 GMT compared with US$1,677.37 late Thursday.