Asian markets mostly up, Tokyo soars on weaker yen

Asian markets mostly rose Wednesday following big losses in the previous session, with Tokyo surging as the yen tumbled after Bank of Japan governor Masaaki Shirakawa said he will step down early.

Traders also took a lead from Wall Street and Europe, where encouraging economic data offset concerns over political uncertainty in Spain and Italy.

Tokyo soared 3.37 percent, or 416.83 points, to 11,463.75 -- its highest close since September 2008 soon after the collapse of US bank Lehman Brothers and at the height of the financial crisis.

Sydney climbed 0.78 percent, or 38.3 points, to 4,921.0 and Hong Kong added 0.47 percent, or 108.40 points, to 23,256.93, while Shanghai ended flat, edging up 1.35 points to 2,434.48. But Seoul lost 1.99 points to close at 1,936.19.

Wellington was closed for a public holiday.

Japanese foreign exchange traders welcomed Shirakawa's announcement that he would step down on March 19, about three weeks before the end of his term.

It fuelled expectations that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will likely fill the post with someone who shares his ideas on aggressive monetary easing that would see more yen pumped into the economy.

The Japanese currency tumbled in New York. By the end of trade on Tuesday the dollar bought 93.61 yen and the euro was at 127.13 yen, compared with 92.28 yen and 124.67 yen earlier in the day in Tokyo.

In afternoon Tokyo trade on Wednesday the dollar bought 93.70 yen and the euro fetched 126.90 yen.

Yen "weakness has resumed with a vengeance", National Australia Bank said.

The euro was also at $1.3522, compared with $1.3582 in New York and much stronger than the $1.3489 Tuesday in Tokyo.

Major Japanese exporters have been raising their earnings outlooks thanks to recent weakness in the yen, heartening investors.

"Global markets continue to normalise, allowing risk-on trading to resume," said SMBC Nikko Securities general manager of equities Hiroichi Nishi.

"This is partially reflected in the fall of the yen," he told Dow Jones Newswires.

Regional markets resumed their upward trend after suffering a heavy jolt on Tuesday after Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was forced to deny corruption claims.

A surge in the polls for the party of former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, who has said he would roll back recent austerity measures, spooked markets ahead of an election this month.

However, encouraging data showed US services sector activity rising and the contraction in eurozone business activity decelerating.

Wall Street rebounded after diving on Tuesday as the Dow sits close to record highs. The Dow ended 0.71 percent higher, the S&P 500 climbed 1.04 percent and the Nasdaq rose 1.29 percent.

In Europe markets on Tuesday recovered some of the huge losses suffered in the previous session.

Oil prices fell, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March down 28 cents to $96.38 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for March delivery losing five cents to $116.47.

Gold was at $1,670.27 at 1035 GMT compared with $1,678.01 late on Tuesday.

In other markets:

-- Mumbai's Sensex index fell 0.10 percent, or 20.10 points, to 19,639.72.

The world's biggest miner, Coal India, fell 2.03 percent to 342.4 rupees and engineering giant Bharat Heavy Electricals fell 1.72 percent to 208.55 rupees.

-- Kuala Lumpur shares lost 1.18 percent, or 19.21 points, to close at 1,614.14.

Axiata Group dipped 2.1 percent to 6.16 ringgit, while CIMB Group Holdings fell 0.6 percent to 7.15. UMW Holdings gained 0.2 percent to 12.20 ringgit.

-- Jakarta ended up 0.44 percent, or 19.54 points, at 4,498.98.

Asia Pacific Fibers rose 1.04 percent to 194 rupiah, Indofood Sukses Makmur climbed 4.96 percent to 6,350 rupiah, while carmaker Astra International slumped 0.66 percent to 7,550 rupiah.

-- Singapore's Straits Times Index closed up 0.12 percent, or 3.87 points, to 3,276.53.

DBS Group shed 1.58 percent to Sg$14.96 and Wilmar International dipped 2.90 percent to Sg$3.68.

-- Bangkok lost 0.36 percent, or 5.37 points, to 1,500.35.

Kiatnakin Bank added 2.64 percent to 58.25 baht, while oil company PTT dropped 1.63 percent to 361.00 baht.

-- Taipei rose 0.25 percent, or 19.71 points, at 7,906.65.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. gained 1.94 percent to Tw$105.0 while Hon Hai Precision was 0.60 percent higher at Tw$83.6.

-- Manila closed 0.60 percent lower, shedding 39.14 points to 6,431.35.

SM Prime Holdings lost 3.85 percent to 17.46 pesos, Alliance Global fell 0.24 percent to 20.45 pesos and Ayala Land gave up 2.31 percent to 29.60 pesos.

--

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