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Asian shares mixed as China inflation slows

January 12, 2012

HONG KONG: Asian markets were mixed today as Chinese inflation hit its lowest level in more than a year while an upbeat assessment of the US economy also gave some support.

However, a string of poor European figures clouded sentiment while on Wall Street the Dow provided an anaemic lead a day after hitting a five-month high.

Sydney closed 0.16%, or 6.5 points, lower at 4,181.0, Tokyo fell 0.74%, or 62.29 points, to 8,385.59, while Seoul finished 1.03% higher, or 19.02 points, at 1,864.57.

Hong Kong was flat while Shanghai gained 0.21%.

The region’s markets were lower in early trade but some rebounded after China released figures showing consumer prices rose 4.1% in December, a fifth straight month of easing and their slowest pace since September 2010.

The National Bureau of Statistics said the full-year rate came in at 5.4% – well above the government’s four percent target.

The figures provided authorities with enough room to further ease monetary policy, lifting hopes for better credit conditions in the country after more than a year of measures aimed at tackling soaring inflation.

“China’s inflation numbers are mostly in line with expectations and show that inflation pressure continues to ease. Investors will continue to hope for moderate monetary loosening,” Daniel So, strategist at SHK Financial, said.

In the US, the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book report on economic conditions sounded a note of optimism.

The report showed growth continued at a “modest to moderate pace”, while improvement continued, particularly in a pickup in consumer spending, a main driver of the economy.

However, Wall Street was mixed, with the Dow ending 0.10% lower after hitting its highest level since July in the previous session. The tech-rich Nasdaq rose 0.31% and the S&P 500 was flat.

Europe continued to drag. Germany said its economy grew 3.0% last year but it was thrown into reverse in the final months by the eurozone turmoil, with an expected contraction of 0.25% in the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, Spain said it suffered a seven percent year-on-year drop in industrial output for November, while Britain said its trade deficit had widened more than expected.

Investors are now looking nervously ahead to bond auctions later in the day for debt-strapped Italy and Spain, while the European Central Bank is also due to hold an interest rate-setting meeting, with many hoping for another cut.

“Going into US reporting season, and ahead of our own reporting season, it’s hard to find any catalysts or investors willing to stick their neck out, especially with Europe’s sovereign debt crisis not going away.

“US economic data continue to show incremental improvement, but we’re going to need to see Europe change tack before investors really back equities,” Justin Gallagher, head of domestic sales trading and execution at RBS in Sydney, told Dow Jones Newswires.

The euro – which late yesterday fell to US$1.2662, a new 16-month low – bought US$1.2714 in early Asian trade.

It also sat at 97.74 yen, compared with 97.70 yen, while the dollar was at 76.88 yen compared with 76.83 yen.

On the oil markets, New York’s main contract, West Texas Intermediate crude for delivery in February gained 52 US cents to US$101.39 in morning trade.

Brent North Sea crude for February delivery was up 61 US cents to US$112.85.

Gold was at US$1,646.08 an ounce at 0655 GMT, against US$1,640.00 late yesterday.

In other markets:

  • Taipei was flat, edging down 1.63 points to 7,186.58. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co was 0.65% higher at Tw$77.0 while smartphone maker HTC added 0.76% to Tw$463.5.
  • Wellington ended 0.52%, or 16.70 points, off at 3,219.83. Fletcher Building was down 0.9% at NZ$5.81, Air New Zealand fell 0.56% to NZ$0.88 and Contact Energy gained 0.41% to NZ$5.14.



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