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Asian markets mostly up on Merkel comments

August 17, 2012

HONG KONG: Asian markets were mostly higher and the euro enjoyed strong support today as spirits were lifted by comments from German Chancellor Angela Merkel reasserting her desire to save the eurozone.

Tokyo’s Nikkei added to the previous day’s healthy gains, advancing 0.77%, or 69.74 points, to 9,162.20 as the yen eased further against the dollar with dealers confident enough to move out of the safe haven Japanese unit.

Sydney climbed 0.92%, or 39.9 points, to 4,370.1 but Seoul eased 0.58%, or 11.37 points, to 1,946.54.

In the afternoon Hong Kong added 0.52% as Shanghai dipped 0.15%.

Merkel, who as head of Europe’s biggest economy is key to the success of any plan to save the euro, said yesterday she backed European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi’s commitment to do whatever was needed to support the currency.

On a visit to Canada she said: “What he said is something that we repeated time and again,” since the Greece crisis began more than two years ago, “that we feel committed to do everything we can in order to maintain the common currency”.

She said the ECB was “completely in line with what we’ve said all along” and its decision to set conditions on bond-buying was “a positive development for the euro-area”.

The comments were seen by traders as a sign she could be warming to the idea of the ECB buying up bonds of troubled sovereign states such as Spain and Italy, which have seen their borrowing costs soar to danger levels recently.

Global markets have been enjoying gains over the past few weeks on expectations the bank will restart the bond-buying programme.

The euro was given a strong lift in New York on Merkel’s remarks and it held up in Asia.

The single currency bought US$1.2347 and 98 yen in afternoon Asian trade, compared with US$1.2358 and 98.06 yen in New York and well up from the US$1.2270 and 97.15 yen it fetched in Asia yesterday.

Riskier assets

The yen was also lower against the dollar, with the upbeat outlook providing support to riskier assets, while expectations of another round of Federal Reserve pump priming are also easing.

The dollar fetched 79.37 yen in early Asian trade, from 79.33 yen in New York late yesterday.

The greenback was helped by US data on new jobless claims and housing construction, which provided more evidence that the world’s biggest economy is growing steadily, albeit slowly.

Weekly numbers for new unemployment insurance claims, an indicator of the pace of layoffs, came in as expected and in the same range as the past four months, while July data on new housing construction, although slightly down from June, showed an industry steadily picking up pace.

On Wall Street the Dow rose 0.65%, the S&P 500 added 0.71% and the Nasdaq climbed 1.04%.

But Facebook shares plunged 6.3% to a new low of US$19.87 as the lockup period for sales by pre-IPO investors ended. The company’s share price has almost halved since its May 18 initial share offering at US$38.

Oil prices eased. New York’s main contract, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) light sweet crude for delivery in September, was down 49 US cents to US$95.11 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for October delivery sank US$1.12 to US$114.15.

Gold was at US$1,615.30 at 0600 GMT, compared with US$1,604.00 yesterday.

In other markets:

  • Taipei slipped 0.30%, or 22.29 points, to 7,467.92. TSMC fell 1.21% to Tw$82.0 while Formosa Plastics was 0.96% lower at Tw$82.7.
  • Wellington gained 0.65%, or 23.46 points, to end at 3,639.66. Fletcher Building rose 1.2% to NZ$6.55 and Contact Energy gained 0.62% to NZ$4.90 but Telecom slipped 2.5% to NZ$2.69.
  • Jakarta was closed for a public holiday.



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