Asian markets mostly rise, strong yen hits Nikkei
Asian markets mostly rose on Tuesday in the first full session after the Easter break, but Japanese shares sank for a second straight day as the yen extended its recent gains.
The greenback came under renewed selling pressure after a weak set of US manufacturing data raised concerns about the economy, while the euro remains under pressure owing to political deadlock in Italy.
Tokyo fell 0.23 per cent by the break, but Hong Kong climbed 0.41 per cent, Shanghai added 0.55 per cent, Sydney was 0.42 per cent higher and Seoul was flat.
Regional markets staged a slight rebound after suffering a sell-off over the past few weeks on the back of the bailout saga in Cyprus, which raised fears the euro zone crisis could flare up again, while Italy struggles to form a government more than a month after an election.
An improvement in manufacturing activity across Asia, including China, provided a little support, but news of a slowdown in the United States weighed on sentiment.
The US Institute for Supply Management said its manufacturing sector activity index came in at 51.3 in March, below the 54.0 per cent expected by analysts.
While anything above 50 indicates growth, the slowdown has raised fears over the strength of recovery in the world’s number one economy.
On Wall Street the Dow dipped 0.04 per cent the S&P 500 gave up 0.45 per cent, in the first trading session since the two indexes closed at record highs on Thursday. The Nasdaq sank 0.87 per cent.
In New York forex trade Monday the dollar slipped to 93.27 yen from 94.20 yen at the end of last week, while the euro also edged up to US$1.2847 from US$1.2818.
By mid-morning on Tuesday in Tokyo the greenback was quoted at 93.07 yen, while the euro sat at US$1.2865.
The single currency was also 119.73 yen Tuesday, from 119.82 yen Monday.
The recent pick-up in the yen has hit Tokyo shares, which enjoyed a near 20 per cent rise over the first three months of this year.
Investors have decided to shift back into the yen after selling it for several months on expectations the Bank of Japan’s new governor will introduce a more aggressive monetary easing policy.
Haruhiko Kuroda will lead his first policy meeting this week but analysts say markets have already priced in big spending measures and anything he announces will likely fall short of most expectations.
Oil prices slipped, with New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in May shedding 24 cents to US$96.83 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for May delivery dropping 20 cents to US$110.88.
Gold was at US$1,601.20 an ounce at 0250 GMT compared with US$1,597.90 late on Monday.