Asian markets mixed but Greek fears weigh

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A currency trader watches monitors at the Korea Exchange Bank headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, in this file photo. Asian markets were mixed on Thursday, May 17, 2012, as the Greek crisis continued to cast a shadow. The Korea Composite Stock Price Index added 0.26 percent, or 4.71 points, to close at 1,845.24 . AP PHOTO/AHN YOUNG-JOON

HONG KONG—Asian markets were mixed on Thursday as the Greek crisis continued to cast a shadow, while dealers got some upbeat news in data showing Japan’s economy grew faster than expected.

The euro managed to edge back up after plunging to four-month lows against the dollar on Wednesday, with investors increasingly nervous that Athens will eventually exit the eurozone.

Tokyo rose 0.86 percent, or 75.42 points, to 8,876.59 and Seoul added 0.26 percent, or 4.71 points, to 1,845.24 and Shanghai climbed 1.39 percent, or 32.70 points, to 2,378.89.

But a late sell-off saw Hong Kong give up its day’s gains to end 0.31 percent, or 58.90 points, lower at 19,200.93 while Sydney eased 0.19 percent, or 8.1 points, to 4,157.4.

The region took a breather and bargain hunters moved in after a recent sell-off caused by May 6 polls in Greece and France that saw a massive backlash against austerity measures.

“We’ve seen quite a retreat since last Monday (May 7), and people are asking when it will bottom out, and we are seeing a bit of that now,” said Justin Harper, market strategist at IG Markets.

In Greece a senior judge was named prime minister and charged with holding fresh elections after more than a week of talks between party leaders failed to muster a coalition.

Economists fear the deadlock – with elections next month likely to see anti-austerity parties do even better – will eventually mean Greece will not qualify for more bailout money, and in turn default and leave the eurozone.

In Japan the government released data showing the economy grew a faster-than-expected 1.0 percent on-quarter in the January-March period, indicating a slow recovery boosted by reconstruction from last year’s earthquake tsunami.

On currency markets the euro rebounded from Wednesday’s sell-off, buying $1.2720 and 102.17 yen in late Asian trade Thursday, slightly up from $1.2715 and 102.13 yen in New York late Wednesday.

The unit had sunk to $1.2681 in Europe Wednesday – its lowest since mid-January – and 101.95 yen.

The dollar was at 80.35 yen from 80.32 yen.

Wall Street was unable to hold on to early advances Wednesday as Athens’ turmoil trumped improved figures on April industrial production and new home construction.

The Dow fell 0.26 percent, the S&P 500 dropped 0.44 percent and the Nasdaq slipped 0.68 percent.

Oil was mixed, with New York’s main contract, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude for delivery in June up 29 cents to $93.33 10 per barrel while Brent North Sea crude for July shed one cent to $109.74 in the afternoon.

Gold was at $1,547.20 an ounce at 1055 GMT, compared with $1,535.82 late Wednesday.

In other markets:

— Singapore ended 0.30 percent, or 8.54 points, lower at 2,822.61

Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. shed 0.35 percent to Sg$8.57, while container shipping firm Neptune Orient Lines was down 2.84 percent at Sg$1.03.

— Taipei rose 1.69 percent, or 122.20 points, to 7,356.77.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. gained 2.04 percent to Tw$85.1 while Hon Hai Precision ended up 3.50 percent at Tw$85.7.

— Manila surged 3.14 percent, or 152.79 points, to 5,017.02.

SM Investments rose 2.58 percent to 696 pesos, Philippine Long Distance Telephone gained 1.34 percent to 2,418 pesos and DMCI Holdings jumped 3.39 percent to 61 pesos.

— Wellington closed 0.20 percent, or 7.00 points, higher at 3,521.51.

Contact Energy fell 0.41 percent to HK$4.88, Fletcher Building was 1.12 percent higher at HK$6.30 and Telecom gained 0.59 percent to HK$2.55.

— Kuala Lumpur added 0.53 percent, or 8.17 points, to 1,544.21

Petronas Chemicals Group gained 0.94 percent to 6.46 ringgit, while financial firm CIMB Group Holdings added 0.97 percent to 7.25 ringgit. Plantation giant Sime Darby eased 0.63 percent to 9.48 ringgit.

— Bangkok edged up 0.20 percent or 2.33 points to 1,173.56.

Banpu added 1.19 percent to 512 baht, while Siam cement dropped 0.87 percent to 341 baht.

— Mumbai ended up 0.25 percent, or 40.39 points at 16,070.48.

— Jakarta was closed for a public holiday.

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