Asian markets mixed, Tokyo extends gains on weak yen

Asian markets were mixed Friday as eurozone and US fiscal woes continued to dent confidence, but Tokyo posted strong gains for a second straight session as the yen weakened further.

Tokyo surged 2.20 percent by the close, adding 194.44 points to 9,024.16, Seoul was 0.53 percent lower, or 9.89 points, at 1,860.83, while Sydney closed down 0.29 percent, or 12.45 points, at 4,336.8.

Hong Kong stocks climbed 0.24 percent, or 50.08 points, to 21,159.01 after suffering a big loss on Thursday, as Shanghai shed 0.77 percent, or 15.56 points, to 2,014.73.

The eurozone debt crisis tipped the region back into recession in the three months to September, official data showed on Thursday, shrinking 0.1 percent from the previous three months, when it contracted 0.2 percent.

And Germany, Europe's biggest economy and the crucial engine for growth in the currency bloc, expanded just 0.2 percent, which was in line with expectations but still anaemic as it suffers the effects of the eurozone's debilitating crisis.

The growth data adds to already weak sentiment with the US fiscal cliff of tax hikes and spending cuts in focus as traders grow increasingly concerned that Democrats and Republicans will not be able to reach a deal to avert it.

If the package of measures comes in as planned on January 1 the world's number one economy will likely tip back into recession, which would have a devastating effect globally and especially on export-dependent nations in Asia.

Those fears were stoked this week when a re-elected President Barack Obama threw down the gauntlet to Republicans to accept tax increases for the rich, an issue they are not inclined to move on.

Wall Street remained negative on the possibility that a deal can be done, falling again on Thursday. The Dow lost 0.23 percent, the S&P 500 fell 0.16 percent and the Nasdaq shed 0.35 percent.

However in Japan, the Nikkei index surged for a second straight day as the yen continued to be sold off following comments from the frontrunner to be the country's next prime minister that he would push for unlimited monetary easing.

Shinzo Abe, a former prime minister and now leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, said he would seek more control of the central bank and push for strong stimulus measures to spur the economy and lift inflation to 2-3 percent.

The news from the man widely tipped to win next month's general election sent the yen tumbling as dealers bet on a flood of cash hitting the markets.

The dollar bought 80.99 yen in late Asian trade, from 81.16 yen in New York late Thursday but sharply up from 80.20 yen in Tokyo early Thursday.

The euro bought 103.22 yen, from 103.69 yen in New York and much higher than 102.17 yen early Thursday.

The euro was at $1.2750, from $1.2778 in US trade.

Oil prices fell, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in December shedding two cents to $85.43 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for January delivery was up 12 cents to $108.13.

Gold was at $1,707.80 by 1115 GMT compared with $1,723.86 late Thursday.

In other markets:

-- Wellington ended flat, edging down 3.66 points at 3,947.84.

Air New Zealand was down 2.43 percent to NZ$1.205, Contact Energy fell 0.58 percent at NZ$5.16 and Telecom Corp was up 0.42 percent at NZ$2.39.

-- Taipei fell 13.77 points, or 0.19 percent, to 7,130.07.

HTC was up 4.63 percent to Tw$248.5 while Hon Hai Precision was 0.44 percent lower at Tw$89.7.

-- Manila rose 0.45 percent, or 24.46 points, to 5,439.28.

-- Singapore closed down 0.01 percent, or 0.29 points, to 2,945.63.

Fraser and Neave gained 1.64 percent to Sg$9.28 while DBS Group fell 0.73 percent to Sg$13.69.

-- Kuala Lumpur shares lost 2.40 points, or 0.15 percent, to close at 1,629.28.

AirAsia fell 2.7 percent to 2.91 ringgit, while Maxis shed 2.4 percent to 6.43. UEM Land Holdings added 3.7 percent to 2.25 ringgit.

-- Bangkok gained 0.48 percent or 6.11 points to 1,280.13.

EGCO lost 0.77 percent to 129.00 baht, while Siam Cement edged up 2.09 percent to 390.00 baht.

-- Mumbai fell 0.88 percent, or 162.0 points, to 18,309.37 points.

Unitech fell 5.64 percent to 26.75 rupees, and ICICI Bank ended down 2.65 percent to 1,026.5 rupees.

-- Jakarta was closed for a public holiday.

--

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