Asian shares mixed as European woes persist

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A trader watches a monitor at a foreign exchange market in Tokyo, Thursday, May 24, 2012. Asian markets were mixed Friday as weak European data added to pessimism after this week's disappointing summit on saving Greece from leaving the eurozone. AP PHOTO/SHIZUO KAMBAYASHI

HONG KONG—Asian markets were mixed Friday as weak European data added to pessimism after this week’s disappointing summit on saving Greece from leaving the eurozone.

Positive leads from Wall Street and European markets were unable to provide a thrust as Asian indexes which in the past month have given up the gains made since the start of the year.

Tokyo closed up 0.20 percent, or 17.01 points, to 8,580.39, Sydney eased 0.66 percent, or 26.6 points, at 4,029.2, while Seoul was 0.53 percent, or 9.7 points, higher at 1,824.17.

Hong Kong ended 0.25 percent, or 47.01 points, higher at 18,713.41 and Shanghai was down 0.74 percent, or 17.42 points, at 2,333.55.

As traders digested the outcome of Wednesday’s summit in Brussels – which laid bare the divisions between Germany and France rather than solve Athens’ problems – a string of data highlighted the woeful state of Europe’s economy.

The latest surveys of eurozone business confidence showed the worst monthly fall in May for nearly three years, to 45.9 points on the Markit PMI index from 46.7 in April. Anything less than 50 signals a slowdown.

In Germany, the backbone of Europe’s economic might, business confidence fell to a six-month low while a French leading index for manufacturing activity fell to the lowest level for 37 months.

And in non-euro member Britain, data showed that the recession was deeper than previously thought, with the economy shrinking 0.3 percent between January and March, worse than the prior estimate for a 0.2 percent contraction.

The euro bought $1.2575 and 100.12 yen in late Asian trade, compared with $1.2532 and 99.74 yen in New York late Thursday. The common currency sank to $1.2516 in New York, its lowest since July 2010.

The dollar was trading at 79.61 yen against 79.59 yen.

Global investors are increasingly concerned that Greece will end up exiting the euro as a June 17 election is expected to see a win for anti-austerity parties who have said they will tear up a bailout deal signed with the EU and International Monetary Fund.

“Investors still have very little confidence in the stock market and financial markets as a whole because of what’s happening in Europe,” said Francis Lun, managing director at Lyncean Securities.

“The fallout from Greece’s possible exit from the euro would be catastrophic for the market,” he told Dow Jones Newswires.

The talks on Wednesday ended with German Chancellor Angela Merkel facing down calls for jointly pooled eurozone debt, or eurobonds, from a growing number of her peers, led by newly elected French President Francois Hollande.

Wall Street rose 0.27 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index fell 0.38 percent and the S&P 500 gained 0.14 percent.

New York’s main contract, West Texas Intermediate crude for delivery in July, was up 44 cents to $91.10 per barrel while Brent North Sea crude for July rose 22 cents to $106.77 in the late afternoon.

Gold was at $1,563.47 an ounce at 1040 GMT, compared with $1,566.30 late Thursday.

In other markets:

— Taipei fell 53.26 points, or 0.75 percent, to 7,071.63.

HTC shed 3.95 percent to Tw$413.0 while TSMC was 0.74 percent lower at Tw$80.0.

— Manila rose 0.44 percent, or 21.75 points, to 4,925.97.

Metropolitan Bank and Trust rose 0.95 percent to 85.30 pesos and Universal Robina gained 1.98 percent to 59.10 pesos but SM Investments fell 0.22 percent to 668.50 pesos.

— Wellington was down 0.28 percent, or 9.96 points, at 3,486.23.

Contact Energy was flat at HK$4.80, Fletcher Building gained 0.16 percent to HK$6.17 and Telecom eased 0.78 percent to HK$2.56.

— Singapore closed 0.24 percent, or 6.78 points, lower at 2,772.75

Singapore Telecom dropped 0.65 percent to Sg$3.08 and DBS Bank fell 0.38 percent to close at Sg$13.17.

— Jakarta ended down 2.1 percent, or 82.36 points, to 3,902.51.

Car maker Astra International declined 2.8 percent to 65,850 rupiah, cement maker Indocement Tunggal Prakarsa fell 4.7 percent to 17,200 rupiah, and telecommunications company Indosat fell 5 percent to 4,250 rupiah.

— Kuala Lumpur shares ended 0.19 percent, or 2.87 points, higher at 1,551.12.

Axiata Group shed 0.2 percent to 5.43 and Genting lost 0.4 percent to 9.95 ringgit.

— Bangkok edged up 0.63 percent, or 7.05 points, to 1,132.83.

PTT dropped 1.92 percent to 307 baht, while Siam Cement added 0.30 percent to 332 baht.

— Mumbai was flat, down 4.48 points or 0.03 percent to 16,217.82.

India’s private steel maker jindal Steel fell 2.59 percent to 456.45 rupees while the country’s largest passenger car maker Maruti Suzuki fell 2.46 percent to 1,117.05.

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