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Asian markets mixed, Nikkei drops

Jan 28 2013 07:44 AFP

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Hong Kong, Jan 28, 2013 (AFP) -Asian markets began the week on a mixed note Monday, with the Nikkei again boosted by a weakening yen, while traders also took heart from a rally on Wall Street.

Upbeat news from Europe also provided strong support, pushing the single currency higher, with indications that the troubled eurozone is slowly emerging from years of crisis.

Tokyo surged above the 11,000 mark for the first time since April 2010 in early trade as the yen extended its recent downward trend but profit-taking soon took hold and by the break the index was down 0.08 percent.

Hong Kong added 0.42 percent, Shanghai was 0.55 percent higher and Seoul dipped 0.35 percent.

Sydney and Kuala Lumpur were closed for public holidays.

On currency markets the dollar bought 90.93 yen in early Asian trade, up from 90.87 yen in New York Friday afternoon, while the euro rose to 122.30 yen from 122.28 yen. The euro also bought $1.3456 from $1.3457 in New York.

Apart from a short-lived rally last week, the yen has seen a continued downtrend since November, when as opposition leader Shinzo Abe promised to push for a more aggressive easing of monetary policy.

Abe won a general election last month on that promise and after becoming prime minister has pressured the central bank to follow his government's policy lead, a move that has been welcomed by markets.

Last week the Bank of Japan adopted a two-percent inflation target and set out plans for indefinite monetary easing.

The euro was also lifted by data Friday showing banks rushing to repay emergency funding totalling $1.3 trillion provided by the European Central Bank a year ago to get them through a credit crunch.

ECB chief Mario Draghi told the World Economic Forum in Davos that he saw a new-found tranquillity in financial markets and said "all the indices point to a substantial improvement of financial conditions".

A survey of investor confidence hit its highest level since the start of the eurozone debt crisis in 2010, while another study of business sentiment was at a seven-month high.

In the United States another set of strong corporate results Friday -- particularly Procter and Gamble and Halliburton -- sent the Dow and S&P 500 surging.

The Dow rose 0.51 percent to its best level since October 2007 and the S&P 500 climbed 0.54 percent to finish above 1,500 points for the first time since December 2007, while the Nasdaq added 0.62 percent.

The advances came despite data showing a surprise fall in US new home sales in December and a bigger-than-expected contraction in British economic growth.

Oil prices rose in Asia, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March, gaining 14 cents to $96.02 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for March up 16 cents to $113.44.

Gold was at $1,659.60 at 0250 GMT compared with $1,669.20 late Friday.

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