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Asian markets mixed, strong yen hits Nikkei

A man walks past a digital board flashing the Nikkei key index of the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) in front of a securities company in Tokyo on April 1, 2013. Tokyo stocks closed down 2.12 percent on April 1 as the yen strengthened and after the Bank of Japan (BoJ) quarterly Tankan survey showed a only a modest uptick in business sentiment. AFP/Toru YAMANAKA

Hong Kong – Asian markets were mixed on Tuesday in the first full session after the Easter break, while Japanese shares sank for a second straight day as the yen extended its recent gains.

The greenback came under renewed selling pressure after a weak set of US manufacturing data raised concerns about the economy, while the euro remains under pressure owing to political deadlock in Italy.

Tokyo fell 1.08 percent, or 131.59 points, to 12,003.43 — a day after tumbling more than two percent — while Sydney ended 0.38 percent higher, adding 19.0 points to 4,985.5. Seoul lost 0.49 percent, or 9.84 points, to 1,986.15.

In the afternoon Hong Kong and Shanghai were flat.

Regional markets staged a slight rebound after suffering a sell-off over the past few weeks on the back of the bailout saga in Cyprus, which raised fears the eurozone crisis could flare up again, while Italy struggles to form a government more than a month after an election.

An improvement in manufacturing activity across Asia, including China, provided a little support, but news of a slowdown in the United States weighed on sentiment.

The US Institute for Supply Management said its manufacturing sector activity index came in at 51.3 in March, below the 54.0 percent expected by analysts.

While anything above 50 indicates growth, the slowdown has raised fears over the strength of recovery in the world’s number one economy.

On Wall Street the Dow dipped 0.04 percent the S&P 500 gave up 0.45 percent, in the first trading session since the two indexes closed at record highs on Thursday. The Nasdaq sank 0.87 percent.

In New York forex trade Monday the dollar slipped to 93.27 yen from 94.20 yen at the end of last week, while the euro also edged up to $1.2847 from $1.2818.

By mid-morning on Tuesday in Tokyo the greenback was quoted at 92.80 yen, while the euro sat at $1.2854.

The single currency was at 119.25 yen Tuesday, from 119.82 yen Monday.

The recent pick-up in the yen has hit Tokyo shares, which enjoyed a near 20 percent rise over the first three months of 2013.

Investors have decided to shift back into the yen after selling it for several months on expectations the Bank of Japan’s new governor will introduce a more aggressive monetary easing policy.

Haruhiko Kuroda will lead his first policy meeting this week but analysts say markets have already priced in big spending measures and anything he announces will likely fall short of most expectations.

However, Atsushi Hirano, head of FX sales in Japan at the Royal Bank of Scotland, told Dow Jones Newswires: “There aren’t any big reasons for this selling. I doubt the sell-off will continue for long.”

Oil prices slipped, with New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in May shedding 39 cents to $96.68 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for May delivery dropping 37 cents to $110.71.

Gold was at $1,601.60 an ounce at 0600 GMT compared with $1,597.90 late on Monday.

In other markets:

– Taipei rose 0.18 percent, or 13.94 points, to 7,913.18.

MediaTek gained 2.05 percent to Tw$348.0 while Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co was 0.50 percent lower at Tw$100.5.

– Wellington fell 0.26 percent, or 11.34 points, to 4,411.41

Contact Energy fell 3.3 percent to NZ$5.51, while Kiwi Income Property lost 3 percent to NZ$1.14, although Telecom was up 1.07 percent at NZ$2.36.

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