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Asian markets mixed ahead of ECB meeting

August 2, 2012

HONG KONG: Asian markets were mixed in tentative trade today ahead of a meeting of the European Central Bank that investors hope will produce a fresh round of stimulus measures to support the euro.

The US Federal Reserve’s decision to hold off any such moves had little impact on sentiment, analysts said, but added that if expectations were not met by the ECB shares could tumble.

Tokyo was 0.13% higher, adding 11.33 points to 8,653.18 and Sydney added 0.16%, or 6.7 points, to 4,269.5.

Hong Kong shed 0.66%, or 130.18 points, to 19,690.20 and Shanghai fell 0.57%, or 12.18 points, to 2.111.18 while Seoul closed 0.56%, or 10.53 points, lower at 1,869.40.

Stocks have boomed since ECB chief Mario Draghi last week said the bank would do all it could to save the euro, with dealers taking that as a nod to a fresh round of bond purchases to ease the pressure on troubled Spain and Italy.

Eyes are now on the bank’s policy meeting later in the day for some action.

But Sydney-based Macquarie Private Wealth division director Martin Lakos said there is still uncertainty on what precisely it will do.

“We’ve heard all the talk from European officials, but the cynics are waiting to see what real policy action transpires,” he said.

Melbourne-based Chris Gore, currency analyst at Go Markets, said in a note to clients: “Mario Draghi’s pledge to do ‘whatever it takes to preserve the euro’ has inspired a material shift in sentiment, but if markets walk away unappeased, it’s likely to spark another bout of top-tier risk aversion.”

However, those who had hoped for some support measures from the US Fed were left disappointed yesterday when the central bank held off for now but said it stood ready to step in when needed.

Tim Condon, economist at ING, said in a note that the Fed’s “do-nothing outcome was largely priced-in”.

He added: “There was less pressure on the FOMC because there is more pressure on the ECB.”

On Wall Street the Dow fell 0.25%, the S&P 500 shed 0.29% and the Nasdaq dropped 0.66%.

Underwhelming global manufacturing activity data kept a lid on any gains, with eurozone and British figures at around three-year lows, while there continued to be contraction in China and the United States.

On currency markets the euro bought US$1.2250 and 96.12 yen in afternoon Asian trade, compared with US$1.2223 and 95.91 yen in New York late yesterday. The dollar was at 78.47 yen against 78.44 yen.

After the ECB decision is out of the way markets will focus again on the United States, where payrolls data for July will be released, with investors hoping for a clearer guide as to the state of the world’s top economy.

Yesterday, a survey of private firms by ADP showed unemployment rose a better-than-expected 163,000 in July, with growth across all sectors.

Oil was mixed. New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in September, shed seven cents to US$88.84 a barrel in the afternoon and Brent North Sea crude for September rose 16 US cents to US$106.12.

Gold was at US$1,602.00 at 0800 GMT, from US$1,613.90 yesterday.

In other markets:

  • Wellington closed 0.95%, or 33.46 points, higher at 3,564.11. Fletcher Building rose 2.2% to NZ$6.19 and Telecom added 1.7% to NZ$2.70.
  • Manila closed 0.10% lower, giving up 5.32 points to 5,293.40. Ayala Land dropped 0.55% to 21.95 pesos, Alliance Global ended 0.08% down at 11.30 pesos, while SM Investments lost 0.50% to 752.50 pesos.
  • Bangkok was closed for a public holiday while Taipei was closed owing to a typhoon.



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