Asian markets mostly down, Tokyo surges on BOJ move

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 April, 2013, 4:55pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 April, 2013, 4:59pm

Tokyo shares bounced and the yen tumbled on Thursday after Japan unveiled more aggressive monetary easing, but other Asian markets slipped, with Seoul hit by growing tensions on the Korean peninsula.

The yen sank against the dollar and the euro after the Bank of Japan (BOJ), in its first meeting under a new governor, announced a raft of measures aimed at ending decades of deflation and dragging the economy out of years of insipid growth.

Tokyo jumped 2.20 per cent, or 272.34 points, to 12,634.45. The Nikkei index had slumped as much as 2.3 per cent in the morning, with dealers concerned new BoJ governor Haruhiko Kuroda would fall short on promises to boost the economy.

Seoul fell 1.20 per cent, or 23.77 points, to 1,959.45 after North Korea blocked access to its Kaesong joint industrial zone with South Korea for the second day running. There were also reports that Pyongyang has moved a medium-range missile to its east coast.

Sydney fell 0.89 per cent, or 44.2 points, to close at 4,913.5.

Hong Kong, Shanghai and Taipei were closed for a public holiday.

After a two-day meeting the BOJ said it would embark on an aggressive spending programme, boosting asset purchases including Japanese government bonds, while pledging to meet a two percent inflation target within two years.

The moves would see the BOJ “enter a new phase of monetary easing both in terms of quantity and quality”, it said in statement.

It also pointed to an uptick in Japan’s economy, which has suffered a mixed bag of data lately without any clear sign of a firm recovery.

Yuji Saito, director of foreign exchange at Credit Agricole in Tokyo, called the news a “positive surprise” for markets.

The appointment of Kuroda has sent the yen tumbling this year as he vowed big measures to achieve a two percent inflation goal to kick-start the economy.

However, investors began moving back into the unit recently amid fears the new governor would not deliver the aggressive policy he had promised.

Monetary easing tends to push down the value of a country’s currency as it means more cash floods into the market.

In afternoon forex trade, the dollar surged as high as 95.57 yen on the announcement, after sitting around 92.94 earlier in the day. The euro also jumped to 122.06 yen from 119.39 yen but it fell to US$1.2803 from US$1.2845 after weak German services data.

Wall Street provided a soft lead to Asian markets, with the Dow losing 0.76 per cent and the S&P 500 down 1.05 per cent a day after they both struck fresh record highs. The Nasdaq gave up 1.11 per cent.

US traders sold up after disappointing private sector jobs data and weak service sector growth figures.

Fears over the Korean peninsula weighed on Seoul, as Pyongyang ratchets up its war rhetoric.

Tensions have soared since December, when North Korea test-launched a long-range rocket. In February, it upped the ante once again by conducting its third nuclear test.

Subsequent UN sanctions and joint South Korea-US military drills triggered weeks of near-daily threats from Pyongyang, ranging from artillery strikes to nuclear Armageddon.

Manila closed 0.46 per cent lower, shedding 31.58 points to 6,783.72. SM Investments fell 0.26 per cent to 1,136 pesos and Philippine Long Distance Telephone was off 0.48 per cent at 2,896 pesos, while Alliance Global Group eased 0.24 per cent to 21 pesos.

Wellington rose 0.39 percent, or 17.32 points, to 4,430.17. Telecom added 0.82 per cent to NZ$2.47, Fletcher Building rose 1.78 per cent to NZ$8.60 and Contact Energy gained 1.11 per cent to close at NZ$5.45.