Asian stocks up as Tokyo gets growth boost

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GMT - 3 Hours Asian stocks up as Tokyo gets growth boost

Post by Generous on Sun Sep 11, 2011 6:46 pm

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HONG KONG: Asian stocks were higher in early Monday trade, with Tokyo getting a boost from better-than-expected GDP figures that showed the country is on the road to recovery after its devastating tsunami.

Asia followed a positive end to Wall Street's week with gains in all the main regional markets giving hope to dealers after a turbulent few days during which they were battered by eurozone debt fears and a US credit downgrade.

Tokyo was 0.87 percent up by the break, Hong Kong added 1.63 percent by mid-morning, Sydney jumped 1.76 percent while Shanghai added 0.24 percent.

Seoul was closed for a public holiday.

In New York on Friday the Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 1.13 percent, at 11,269.02, having lost only 1.53 percent despite a very volatile week.

Global markets had been roiled after the head of the European Commission said the eurozone debt crisis had likely spread from the peripheral states.

Then ratings agency Standard & Poor's downgraded the United States' credit rating, sending traders into a panic and stoking fears the world's number one economy was in for a double-dip recession.

The US Federal Reserve on Tuesday moved to stem the selling by assuring investors that it would not raise interest rates for at least the next two years. Stocks see-sawed, with traders grasping at short-term leads.

But the week started more positively in Asia, with dealers in Tokyo taking heart from figures showing the economy shrank an annualised 1.3 percent in the April-June quarter following the March 11 quake and tsunami.

The markets had been expecting a 2.7-percent contraction.

Post-disaster falls in consumer spending and in April exports were the main causes of the third straight quarterly contraction, analysts said.

But other recent data have started to show signs of recovery in the world's third biggest economy, as industrial supply chains have been restored and post-quake reconstruction has picked up along the tsunami-hit coast.

"I think we will see clear signs of recovery in the July-September quarter," said Taro Saito, a senior economist at NLI Research Institute.

Japan's triple calamity five months ago killed more than 20,000 people, devastated large areas of the northeast and sparked a nuclear crisis at the Fukushima plant, which continues to leak radiation into the environment.

The disaster also caused power shortfalls that have forced a summer-time electricity saving campaign. Only 15 of Japan's 54 nuclear reactors are now operating, with more due to cease operations soon for regular checks.

Japan's Cabinet Office last Friday cut its economic growth forecast for this fiscal year to 0.5 percent, from 1.5 percent, but said it expects growth to recover to between 2.7 and 2.9 percent in fiscal year 2012.

But the positive figures could be tempered by the stubbornly strong yen, which crimps the earnings of exporters -- a key driver of the economy -- and appears all but immune to the sabre rattling of the Japanese government.

Tokyo intervened in currency markets earlier this month and has repeatedly made thinly-veiled threats to do so again in a bid to stem the unit's rise, but dealers continue to flee to the safe-haven yen.

On Monday the dollar recovered slightly to 76.96 yen from 76.76 yen late Friday in New York. The euro firmed to $1.4318 from $1.4250, and to 110.10 yen from 109.30.

"Market players are bracing for the dollar to fall further to the mid-76 yen range while closely watching for the risk of intervention," said Nobuyoshi Kuroiwa, senior deputy general manager of Hachijuni Bank's forex team.

Gold, another safe haven in unpredictable times, opened in Hong Kong at $1,733.00-$1,734.00 an ounce, down from its Friday close of $1,758.00-$1,759.00 The precious metal had surged early Thursday to a record above $1,800.

Oil was higher, lifted by regional stock gains, but with the spectre of an uncertain economic future threatening to curb gains.

New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate crude for delivery in September, was up 22 cents to $85.60 a barrel in morning trade.

Brent North Sea crude for September advanced 27 cents to $108.30.

"Asian stocks are gaining and so oil futures are rising in parallel to that," said Victor Shum, an analyst with Purvin and Gertz energy consultancy in Singapore.

"But I expect that the market will continue to be rocky and volatile because there's still concern about a potential return of the global economy to a recession," he told. (AFP)


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