Wed, Dec 21, 2011 - Page 10 News List

Markets mixed as N Korea fears ease

EUROZONE WOES:Markets are still waiting for Standard & Poor’s to decide about whether to lower the ratings of 15 eurozone member nations, including Germany

AFP, HONG KONG

Asian markets were mixed yesterday as initial concerns about regional tensions after the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il subsided, although European debt woes continued to drag on sentiment.

With attention turning to the leadership succession in Pyongyang, markets were relieved that there seemed to be no internal turmoil in the nuclear-armed state, providing dealers an opportunity to pick up cheap stocks.

Seoul, which tumbled 3.4 percent on Monday, rebounded yesterday to end 0.91 percent higher, adding 16.13 points to 1,793.06.

Tokyo rose 0.49 percent, or 40.36 points, to 8,336.48 and Hong Kong ended 9.99 points higher at 18.080.20.

However, Sydney slipped in late trade and ended 0.18 percent, or 7.3 percent, lower at 4,053.1, while Shanghai shed 0.10 percent, or 2.31 points, to 2,215.93.

Regional markets tumbled on Monday after news Kim had died, throwing into uncertainty the future of North Korea, which for years has raised tensions in the region with its erratic behavior and nuclear capability.

However, analysts said that with his son Kim Jong-un hailed in state media as the “great successor,” there seemed to be some stability and there would likely be minimal impact on financial markets.

However, in the medium-to-longer term, geopolitical risks will remain until the succession process is completed.

“If internal disputes erupt in North Korea, there may be some impact on stocks, but under current circumstances further sell-offs are unlikely,” Yumi Nishimura, senior market analyst at Daiwa Securities, told Dow Jones Newswires. “Uncertainty over the European situation remains, which should weigh on stocks.”

With the threat of a possible downgrade hanging over the eurozone, the debt crisis continues to plague markets.

Standard & Poor’s is still to make a decision on whether to cut the ratings for 15 of the euro area’s members, including Germany and France, after it put them on watch before a crucial summit earlier this month.

With most analysts regarding the summit’s agreement inadequate to solve a credit crunch, there are concerns S&P will announce a downgrade which would make borrowing even harder and raise the prospects of a credit crunch.

On Friday, Moody’s cut Belgium’s credit rating by two notches, while Fitch lowered its outlook on France’s “AAA” rating to negative from stable and put six other nations on downgrade watch.

Adding to nervousness was news that plans for a 200 billion euro (US$260 billion) boost to IMF coffers to help troubled economies also fell short, with only euro members so far putting in and non-members, including Britain, refusing to take part.

Eurozone President Jean-Claude Juncker said after a three-and-a-half-hour conference call between finance ministers that just 150 billion euros had been pledged.

The refusal by European Central Bank (ECB) chief Mario Draghi to buy even more bonds — effectively printing money so that governments can pay their debts — has also weighed.

The ECB insists it is up to governments to put their house in order and not for it to help them out with a course of action that could easily stoke inflation.

The EU treaty “forbids -monetary financing of states” by the ECB, Draghi said.

The euro stood at US$1.3014, up slightly from US$1.2996 in New York on Monday, and at ¥101.43, almost unchanged from ¥101.37 in New York.

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