Asian stocks steadier, Nikkei bounces back

Calm starting to return to markets after Thursday’s selloff

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 May, 2013, 10:01am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 May, 2013, 10:03am

Asian shares opened cautiously higher on Friday with Tokyo’s Nikkei steadying from its biggest one-day drop in two years as investors breathed a sigh of relief when Wall Street cut losses on an upbeat outlook from Hewlett-Packard.

As some semblance of calm returned to markets, the yen drifted lower against the dollar and euro, giving back some of the chunky gains made on Thursday.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged up 0.2 per cent, having slumped more than 2 per cent on Thursday in its largest one-day decline in 10 months.

Japanese stocks climbed 3.4 per cent, after suffering an eye-watering 7.3 per cent drop in a vicious turnaround from a 5-1/2 year peak.

The Nikkei is still up more than 60 per cent since mid-November, when Shinzo Abe, who became prime minister the following month, proposed aggressive monetary and fiscal policies to revive the world’s third-largest economy.

“There’s no change in the fact that we can expect the economy to do quite well. The market may stay volatile for a while but I think the uptrend will continue,” said Masayuki Doshida, senior market analyst at Rakuten Securities.

US stocks finished well off their session lows on Thursday thanks to a rally in Hewlett-Packard’s share price after the world’s largest PC maker raised its outlook.

Thursday’s dramatic moves followed HSBC’s preliminary “flash” survey showed Chinese factory activity declined in May for the first time in seven months and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke hinted the US central bank could soon scale back monthly bond purchases.

Two senior US central bankers have since sought to soothe market fears, saying the Fed will not hastily withdraw its policy stimulus and the pace of bond purchases could be adjusted up or down according to how the economy fared.

Not supporting the policy doves, data on Thursday showed the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell last week, while new single family home sales rose.

Markets are also keen to see if Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda will comment on the market volatility, when he speaks at a conference in Tokyo around lunchtime.

In the currency market, the dollar rose 0.5 per cent to 102.49 yen, retracing some of Thursday’s 1.2 per cent drop, while the euro gained 0.3 per cent to 132.44.

The euro was flat against the greenback at US$1.2921.

“We expect the US dollar to find its feet in the days ahead as expectations for Fed tapering and US data outperformance relative to other G10 economies provides support,” said Vassili Serebriakov, strategist at BNP Paribas.

Commodity currencies like the Australian dollar were also off lows, but their outlook remained shaky given worries about Chinese growth.

The Australian dollar fell 0.5 per cent at US$0.9688, but was off Thursday’s trough of US$0.9593. Support is seen around the last year nadir of US$0.9581, and a break there would take it back to lows not seen since October 2011.

Commodities nursed losses with copper at US$7,311 a tonne after a 2.3 per cent slide. Brent crude stood at US$102.48 a barrel, having plumbed a three-week low of US$100.64 in the previous session.