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Asian markets higher on hopes for ECB bond-buying

August 7, 2012

HONG KONG: Asian markets rose today on hopes the European Central Bank will soon restart its sovereign bond-buying scheme, but gains were capped by profit-taking after the previous day’s big gains.

The euro was flat as attention turned back to Spain, with speculation swirling that the government would officially ask for eurozone financial aid soon, easing its crippling debt troubles.

And Standard Chartered Bank dived after being accused by the United States of hiding hundreds of billions of dollars of transactions with Iran despite the country being under tight financial sanctions imposed by Washington.

Tokyo rose 0.88%, or 77.02 points, to 8,803.31, while Seoul closed flat, adding 0.92 points to 1,886.80.

Sydney climbed 0.45%, or 19 points, to end at 4,291.6 after the Australian central bank announced a widely-expected decision to keep interest rates in hold for a second straight month.

In the afternoon Hong Kong was 0.17% higher while Shanghai was flat. While regional markets remain upbeat following Friday’s better-than-expected jobs data in the United States, there were few fresh catalysts, with trade quiet ahead of the release of Chinese economic data on Thursday.

Shares in Europe and the United States closed higher as expectation mounted that the ECB will resume its Securities Market Programme (SMP) of buying sovereign debts of under-pressure countries such as Spain and Italy.

Bank chief Mario Draghi raised hopes at the end of July by saying the ECB would do whatever was needed to support the euro, which has come under severe strain from the long-running debt crisis that has threatened to break up the eurozone.

On Wall Street the Dow closed up 0.16%, the Nasdaq rose 0.74% and the S&P 500 climbed 0.23%.

There were also advances in London, Paris, Frankfurt, Madrid and Milan.

On the Hong Kong exchange banking giant Standard Chartered dived 7.28% in afternoon trade after US regulators accused it of hiding US$250 billion in transactions with Iranian banks for almost a decade, in violation of US sanctions.

Branding the London-based global financial giant a “rogue bank”, New York officials said the lender systematically disguised foreign exchange deals with Tehran in a breach of controls that potentially opened up the US banking system to terrorists and criminals.

New York’s Department of Financial Services threatened the bank with fines and possible suspension of its licence to operate in the state, in the latest US move against foreign banks trading with Tehran amid a stand-off over the country’s controversial nuclear programme.

And in Japan, analysts voiced fears that political uncertainty there would hit shares after the opposition threatened a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.

The main opposition Liberal Democratic Party has demanded Noda promise a snap election in exchange for supporting a bill on tax hikes in Parliament.

“If the government is seen as ineffective in producing appropriate fiscal and monetary policy due to political chaos, speculation may emerge the government may not be able to curb the yen’s strength,” said Kenichi Hirano, operating officer at Tachibana Securities.

On currency markets the euro traded at US$1.2386 and 96.92 yen, compared with US$1.2399 and 96.97 yen in New York.

And the dollar stood at 78.25 yen, compared with 78.20 yen in New York yesterday.

Oil prices eased. New York’s main contract, WTI for delivery in September, fell 28 US cents to US$91.92 a barrel in the afternoon and Brent North Sea crude for September delivery shed 15 US cents to US$109.40.

Gold was at US$1,611.25 at 0650 GMT, from US$1,608.40 yesterday.

In other markets:

  • Wellington rose 0.61%, or 21.61 points, to 3,584.81. Fletcher Building gained 1.12% to NZ$6.34 while Telecom added 0.74% to NZ$2.73.
  • Taipei was 0.13%, or 9.13 points, higher at 7,295.46. Hon Hai Precision was unchanged at Tw$87.3 while Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co was 0.62% higher at Tw$81.4.
  • Manila was closed because of heavy storms.

- AFP


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