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Asian markets mixed, Japan weighed by strong yen

February 19, 2013

HONG KONG: Asian markets were mixed today, but Tokyo eased on profit-taking and following an uptick in the yen after Japan’s finance minister said the central bank’s independence was safe for now.

With US markets closed for the Presidents’ Day public holiday, there were no drivers from New York

Tokyo, which surged more than two percent yesterday, fell 0.21%, while Hong Kong was up 0.10%, Sydney added 0.21%, Seoul was 0.35% higher and Shanghai slipped 0.30%.

The yen rose after Finance Minister Taro Aso’s comments on the central bank took the edge off premier Shinzo Abe’s warning yesterday that he would consider changing the law to take control of the Bank of Japan if it could not achieve a new two percent inflation target.

“We are not thinking about a law change at the moment,” Aso said at a regular news conference today.

Abe’s remarks had added to selling pressure on the yen, which was already weakened by the Group of 20’s decision not to label Tokyo a currency manipulator over its recent monetary easing policy.

In early foreign exchange trade, the dollar slipped to 93.69 yen from 93.95 yen in London on Monday afternoon, while the euro bought 125.19 yen, compared with 125.43 yen.

“The pair (dollar against the yen) fell on Mr. Aso’s remarks on foreign bond purchases,” said a senior dealer at a major Japanese trust bank.

The euro also sat at US$1.3344 against US$1.3353.

Oil prices were mixed, with New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March, rising three US cents to US$95.60 a barrel compared with London prices yesterday. Brent North Sea crude for April fell 19 US cents to US$117.50.

Gold was at US$1,614.40 at 0200 GMT, compared with US$1,610.52 late yesterday.



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