Fri, Jan 03, 2014 - Page 15 News List

Asian shares mixed at new year’s start

DOWN SENTIMENT:New York’s bourse made some record gains going into the new year, but China’s slowing manufacturing growth tempered global confidence

AFP, HONG KONG and LONDON

Asian share markets began the new year mixed yesterday, with another record-breaking close on Wall Street offset by a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing growth.

Trading across the region was quiet after the break. The US dollar held on to its recent gains against the yen, sitting just below five-year highs.

Sydney added 0.29 percent, or 15.7 points, to 5,367.9 while Seoul tumbled 2.20 percent, or 44.15 points, to close at 1,967.19.

Shanghai lost 0.31 percent, or 6.59 points, to 2,109.39 and Hong Kong closed 0.14 percent, or 33.66 points, higher to 23,340.05.

Taipei ended flat, edging up 1.03 points to 8,612.54.

Tokyo and Wellington were closed for public holidays.

US shares gave a positive lead going into this year, with investors in New York upbeat after a series of strong data indicating the world’s top economy is getting back up to speed.

The Dow added 0.44 percent and the S&P 500 gained 0.40 percent in Tuesday trade — both new records — while the NASDAQ rose 0.54 percent to hit its high for the year.

The Dow gained 26.5 percent last year — its best percentage rise in more than 15 years — while the S&P 500 advanced 29.6 percent, marking its strongest jump since 1997.

However, while the performance in New York provided a catalyst for buying, figures showing that factory activity in China had slowed weighed on sentiment.

On Wednesday, Beijing’s official purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for last month came in at 51.0, down from November’s 51.4 and below the median 51.2 forecast of eight economists by the Wall Street Journal. Anything above 50 points to growth, while a figure below indicates contraction.

It marked the 15th straight month of growth, but it is the first time since June that the figure has dipped from the previous month. And on Thursday, HSBC said its China PMI dipped to 50.5 last month from 50.8 in November.

The results raised concerns about the state of the world’s No. 2 economy — which is a key driver of regional and global growth — with analysts fearing it has slowed in recent months despite a pick-up in the middle of the year.

Qu Hongbin (屈宏斌), an HSBC economist in Hong Kong, said in a statement accompanying the data that the easing in last month’s PMI was mainly due to modest output growth, which weakened from November’s eight-month high.

However, the fact that the index has sustained a fifth straight expansionary reading suggested the Chinese economy has been holding up well, he said.

“The recovering momentum since August 2013 is continuing into 2014,” Qu said.

Meanwhile, Europe’s main stock markets climbed in opening deals yesterday as investors returned to their desks on the first trading day of this year.

London’s FTSE 100 index advanced 0.11 percent to 6,756.32 points and the Paris CAC 40 won 0.31 percent to 4,309.16 points, compared with the close on Tuesday — the last trading day for both the British and French bourses before shutting for New Year’s Day.

Elsewhere, Frankfurt’s DAX 30 index added 0.48 percent to 9,598.25 points compared with the close on Monday, when it last traded.

All three main European markets reaped impressive gains last year, with sentiment boosted by growing economic optimism, looser central bank monetary policy and easing concerns over the eurozone crisis.

Over the past year, London stocks soared by 14.4 percent, aided by the recovering British economy, while Paris jumped 18 percent and star performer Frankfurt surged by 25.5 percent.

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