Asian stocks mixed, Tokyo hits 32-month high

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A man walks by a screen showing the foreign currency exchange rates in downtown Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013. Most Asian markets surrendered early gains. AP PHOTO/LEE JIN-MAN

HONG KONG—Asian shares were mixed Tuesday on a lack of direction from Wall Street, but Tokyo hit a 32-month high on hopes for new central bank easing despite giving up early gains as the yen rebounded.

Some bourses advanced early in the session on reassurances from Fed chief Ben Bernanke that quantitative easing was set to continue in the United States, only to lose ground later in the day.

Tokyo put on 0.72 percent, or 77.51 points, to 10,879.08—its highest level since April 30, 2010—and Shanghai added 0.60 percent to 2,325.68, as environmental firms rose on hopes they will benefit from recent bad pollution.

But Seoul was off 1.16 percent, or 23.30 points, to 1,983.74, led by falls in technology stocks due to a stronger won, and Hong Kong shed 0.14 percent, or 31.75 points, to 23,381.15.

Sydney closed flat, edging down 3.1 points to 4,716.6.

The Japanese currency, which has fallen in recent weeks as new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed to push monetary easing, rebounded after the economy minister warned the weak yen could hurt consumers by making imports more expensive.

The dollar, which changed hands at 89.56 yen in morning trade and 89.45 yen in New York on Monday, dropped to 88.84 yen after Amari’s comments.

The rise in the yen pared some of the gains in Tokyo, which had earlier been up more than 1.2 percent.

A weaker Japanese unit boosts exporters by making their products cheaper overseas and increasing the value of their repatriated foreign income.

Nevertheless the bourse ended strongly after the Bank of Japan governor earlier in the day pledged “aggressive” easing to boost the moribund economy, fueling speculation the bank could launch new measures after a meeting next week.

The BoJ has been under heavy pressure from Abe’s government to adopt an annual two percent inflation target to fight chronic deflation that has haunted the world’s third-largest economy for years.

There was a note of relief on markets after US Federal Reserve chief Bernanke indicated on Monday, after Asian markets had closed, that the US central bank’s latest round of quantitative easing would continue, dealers said.

Asian traders were also looking ahead to fourth-quarter Chinese growth data due to be released on Friday, which analysts hope will confirm that the world’s number two economy is picking up following a slowdown.

There was no clear lead from Wall Street, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining 0.14 percent, but the broad-based S&P 500 falling 0.09 percent and the Nasdaq Composite shedding 0.26 percent.

On forex markets in Asian afternoon trade, the euro slipped to 118.75 yen from 119.65 yen in New York. Against the dollar, the euro dipped to $1.3367 from $1.3376 in US trading.

Oil prices fell. New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in February, slipped 32 cents to $93.82 a barrel in the afternoon and Brent North Sea crude for February delivery dipped 23 cents to $111.65.

Gold was at $1,680.90 at 1100 GMT compared with $1,668.39 late Monday.

In other markets:

— Singapore closed down 0.33 percent, or 10.52 points, to 3,196.07.

City Developments fell 2.75 percent to Sg$11.33 and Keppel Land was unchanged at Sg$3.97 as property stocks continued to languish after the government introduced new measures to cool the housing market.

— Kuala Lumpur closed flat, edging up 1.26 points to 1,685.89.

UEM Land Holdings added 2.3 percent to 2.20 ringgit, while UMW Holdings rose 2.1 percent to 12.70. Telekom Malaysia dropped 0.9 percent to 5.74 ringgit.

— Bangkok fell 0.16 percent, or 2.21 points, to 1,422.86.

Coal producer Banpu dropped 1.47 percent to 402 baht, while Siam Cement lost 0.93 percent to 428.00 baht.

— Jakarta gained 0.42 percent, or 18.33 points, to 4,400.82.

Telecoms firm Telekomunikasi Indonesia jumped 3.28 percent to 9,450 rupiah and Bank Negara Indonesia rose 2.01 percent to 3,800 rupiah, while cement producer Semen Indonesia slid 0.32 percent to 15,700 rupiah.

— Taipei fell 0.75 percent, or 58.95 points, to 7,765.02.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. shed 1.47 percent to Tw$100.5 while leading smartphone maker HTC was 1.20 percent lower at Tw$287.5.

— Wellington rose 0.41 percent, or 17.04 points, to 4,170.96.

Fletcher Building gained 0.23 percent to NZ$8.88, Mainfreight added 1.02 percent to NZ$11.92 and Telecom Corp. was down 0.21 percent at NZ$2.33.

— Manila lost 0.10, or 6.23 points, to 6,087.67.

Top-traded Ayala Corp fell 1.85 percent to 530 pesos while Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co. dropped 0.56 percent to 107 pesos.

— Mumbai rose 0.40 percent, or 80.41 points, to 19,986.82 on hopes of a rate cut as inflation eased.

Mobile phone firm Bharti Airtel climbed 4.81 percent to 345.25 rupees and Idea Cellular advanced 8.27 percent to 122.4 on a possible hike in call tariffs.

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