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Asian markets fall, Japan weighed by strong yen

AP FILE PHOTO

Hong Kong—Asian markets were mostly lower on Tuesday as Tokyo slipped following an uptick in the yen while Chinese shares fell on fears Beijing may act to rein in soaring property prices.

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

Tokyo’s benchmark Nikkei 225 slipped 0.31 percent to end at 11,372.34 on profit-taking and as the yen rose after Japan’s finance minister said the central bank’s independence was safe for now.

Seoul added 0.20 percent to 1,985.83 and Sydney ended 18.5 points, or 0.37 percent, higher at 5,081.9.

Hong Kong was down 0.68 percent in the afternoon and Shanghai slid 1.25 percent, led by falls in property stocks amid fears Beijing may tighten regulations in the sector to try to control home prices.

“Negative factors, including rebounding property prices and inflation pressures, are gaining momentum,” Tebon Securities analyst Zhang Haidong told Dow Jones Newswires.

In Tokyo, Finance Minister Taro Aso moved to reassure on the independence of the Bank of Japan and also said the government had “no intention” of asking the central bank to buy foreign bonds as part of its monetary easing policy.

The yen rose after Aso’s comments took the edge off Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s warning Monday that he would consider changing the law to take control of the bank 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 Tuesday.

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 foreign exchange trade, the dollar slipped to 93.67 yen in Tokyo from 93.95 yen in London on Monday, while the euro was weaker at 125.02 yen against 125.43 yen.

The euro was also at $1.3348 against $1.3353.

“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.

Oil prices turned lower, with New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March falling four cents to $95.53 a barrel in the afternoon.

Brent North Sea crude for delivery in April slipped 27 cents to $117.42.

Gold was at $1,613.30 at 0700 GMT, compared with $1,610.52 late Monday.

In other markets:

– Taipei closed up 0.22 percent, or 17.35 points, at 7,960.88.

HTC climbed 3.68 percent to Tw$282.0 while Hon Hai Precision was 1.57 percent higher at Tw$84.1.

– Wellington ended 0.71 percent, or 29.73 points, higher at 4,244.21.

Contact Energy rose 3.4 percent to NZ$5.25, Telecom added 1.1 percent to NZ$2.28 and Sky City was flat at NZ$4.02.


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