Asian shares mixed, Nikkei ends flat as yen weakens

Asian markets were mixed on Thursday, with Tokyo ending flat after a seesaw session that saw parts suppliers hit after global aviation agencies grounded Boeing's Dreamliner.

The euro and dollar resumed their upward trend against the yen after Japan's economy minister Akira Amari distanced himself from his earlier reported comments, that too sharp a fall in the yen could be bad.

Tokyo edged up 9.20 points to 10,609.64, after heavy losses in the previous session on the back of a strengthening yen.

Seoul lost 0.16 percent, or 3.18 points, to 1,974.27 but Sydney added 0.38 percent, or 18.2 points, to 4,756.6.

Shanghai fell 1.06 percent, or 24.59 points, to 2,284.91, while Hong Kong ended flat, dipping 17.23 points to 23,339.76.

The yen had strengthened after Amari on Tuesday was quoted as saying that the currency's rapid decline in recent weeks was putting Japan's fragile recovery at risk by making imports more expensive.

The rise in the currency hit the Nikkei, which tumbled Wednesday after hitting a 32-month high earlier in the week.

But the unit eased back on Thursday after Amari said his comments had been misinterpreted.

In afternoon trade the dollar bought 88.62 yen, up from 88.37 yen in New York late Wednesday, while the euro rose to 117.90 yen from 117.42 yen.

The single currency bought $1.3305 Thursday, from $1.3286.

Eyes are now on a Bank of Japan rate-setting meeting next week to see if it follows a monetary policy line closer to the new government, which is calling for more loosening.

Shares in two of the country's biggest airlines ended with mixed fortunes after suffering a sell-off in the wake of their announcement that they would ground their Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleets.

The news from All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Japan Airlines (JAL) came after an ANA plane was forced to make an emergency landing Wednesday owing to problems with a battery.

The incident is the latest in just over a week to hit the aircraft, including engine problems and fuel leaks.

Authorities around the world including in the US, Europe and India later ordered airlines to stop flying the troubled airplanes, meaning that most of the Dreamliners in operation worldwide have now been grounded.

Japanese authorities said Thursday the grounding would continue indefinitely until all batteries were confirmed to be safe.

However JAL finished the day 0.27 percent higher -- a reversal from the 1.0 percent loss in mid-session -- while ANA ended 0.54 percent off after slipping more than one percent earlier.

Component suppliers fared worse but still pared their morning losses. Carbon fibre maker Toray Industries lost 1.96 percent and battery maker GS Yuasa tumbled 4.98 percent.

Wall Street provided an anaemic lead, with the Dow falling 0.17 percent, the S&P 500 flat and the Nasdaq up 0.22 percent.

Dealers are also eyeing Friday's release of Chinese growth data, with expectations high that it will show a further pick-up in the economy as it emerges from a drawn-out slumber.

Oil prices slipped. New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in February, shed 15 cents to $94.09 a barrel. Brent North Sea crude for March delivery fell $1.08 to $109.78 53.

Gold was at $1,681.70 at 01130 GMT compared with $1,678.80 late Wednesday.

In other markets:

-- Taipei lost 1.09 percent, or 83.79 points, to 7,616.64.

Leading smartphone maker HTC fell 3.29 percent to Tw$279.5 while Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co was 0.1 percent higher at Tw$99.3.

-- Manila closed 0.41 percent higher, adding 24.66 points, to 6,072.18.

Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. gained 0.59 percent to 2,714 pesos while Ayala Land rose 2.39 percent to 27.80 pesos.

-- Wellington rose 0.66 percent, or 27.58 points, to 4,196.81.

Fletcher Building was up 2.47 percent at NZ$9.11 and Telecom gained 0.85 percent to NZ$2.37 while Air New Zealand was down 1.17 percent at NZ$1.27.

-- Singapore closed down 0.42 percent, or 13.40 points, to 3,195.10.

Real estate developer CapitaLand gained 1.58 percent to Sg$3.86 while OCBC Bank fell 1.64 percent to Sg$9.57.

-- Kuala Lumpur shares fell 1.86 points, or 0.11 percent, to 1,681.09.

Maxis lost 0.3 percent to 6.54 ringgit, while IOI shed 0.2 percent to 4.99.

-- Bangkok added 0.34 percent, or 4.81 points, to 1,420.95.

Siam Cement lost 0.47 percent to 426.00 baht, while power giant Electricity Generating Public Co. dropped 0.98 percent to 152.00 baht.

-- Jakarta fell 0.29 percent, or 12.58 points, to 4,398.38.

Miner Aneka Tambang fell 2.86 percent to 1,360 rupiah and food manufacturer Indofood Sukses Makmur slipped 0.81 percent to 6,100 rupiah.

-- Mumbai rose 0.74 percent, or 146.40 points, to 19,964.03.

Indian Oil Corp rose 6.6 percent to 315.9 rupees while Hindustan Petroleum Corp rose 6.06 percent to 345.6 rupees.


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