Japan's Nikkei dives as yen gains strength
BANGKOK (AP) — Japan's stock market dived Monday after the yen reversed some of its recent fall against the U.S. dollar. Stocks elsewhere in Asia were mixed as investors tried to sort out conflicting indicators about the health of the global economy.
The Nikkei 225 shed 2.6 percent to 14,238.72, after its stalwart export sector was hit with wide-ranging losses. The benchmark in Tokyo has been on a tear, rising 36 percent since the beginning of the year. The yen's steady fall against other major currencies has been a major market propellant but it reversed some of that decline Monday after reaching 103 to the dollar last week.
The yen's weakness has been a byproduct of the economic stimulus policies embraced this year by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has embarked on an aggressive campaign to lift consumer prices and encourage borrowing and spending. As part of that effort, Japan's central bank is flooding its financial system with money, helping reduce the value of the yen.
Nissan Motor Corp. dropped 6.2 percent. Yamaha Motor Co. tumbled 6.4 percent. Sony Corp. slid 5.6 percent.
Hopes for a global economic recovery were undermined last week when a survey on China's monthly manufacturing pace showed a bigger-than-expected decline. Less-than-clear indications from the U.S. Federal Reserve on whether it might scale back its aggressive bond-buying program, dubbed quantitative easing or QE, also caused investors to curb their enthusiasm.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng reversed early losses to rise 0.3 percent to 22,674.41 after pledges by China's leaders to pursue sustainable growth helped push up alternative energy stocks. China Everbright International rose 2.7 percent. Anton Oilfield Services, which is pursuing shale gas development in China, jumped 6.4 percent.
"We have seen a lot of funds buying into shale gas, wind power and environmental protection," said Jackson Wong, vice president at Tanrich Securities in Hong Kong. Wong also said that a recovery in mainland Chinese stocks helped the Hang Seng.
South Korea's Kospi gained 0.5 percent to 1,982.63. Benchmarks in mainland China, Singapore and Taiwan rose. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 declined 0.6 percent to 4,959.70. Benchmarks in the Philippines, New Zealand and Indonesia fell.
On Wall Street on Friday, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.1 percent, to 15,303.10. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell less than 0.1 percent to 1,649.60. The Nasdaq composite index fell less than 0.1 percent to 3,459.14.
Markets in the U.S. will be closed Monday for Memorial Day.
Benchmark oil for July delivery was down 47 cents to $93.70 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 10 cents to $94.15 a barrel on the Nymex on Friday.
In currencies, the euro fell to $1.2923 from $1.2934 late Friday in New York. The dollar was at 101.06 yen down from last week's high of more than 103 yen per dollar.
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