Asian Markets Mixed after Volatile Session
Asian markets came off initial losses Friday in volatile trading, with gains in technology and export-related stocks offsetting weakness in financials and shippers. Japan, Australia and South Korea all closed stronger.
Energy firms, such as Australia's Woodside Petroleum and Japan's Inpex Holdings, advanced after oil prices rose as concerns about a possible strike in Nigeria, Africa's top producer, stirred supply worries. Oil prices initially fell more than $3 a barrel but rallied in the afternoon, closing the U.S. Thursday session near $137. Crude oil is currently trading above the $136 level in the Asian Friday session.
Exporters gained ground as the dollar rallied broadly, after the strong retail sales figure boosted expectations that the Federal Reserve may raise interest rates this year.
However, the region's shippers such as Mitsui OSK and COSCO lost ground.Their declines were promptedby an 8.7 percent fall inthe Baltic Exchange's dry freight Index, due to rising fuel costs and a slowdown in the global economy. The index monitors merchant shipping costs for dry commodities like coal and iron ore.
Tokyo's Nikkei 225 Averagefinished 0.6 percent higher as exporters such as Sony climbed on a softer yen and investors adjusted positions before the outcome of a Group of Eight finance ministers' meeting. Still, the Nikkei posted the worst weekly drop in three months as worries about rising inflation and
interest rate hikes elsewhere dampened investors' appetite for stocks.
South Korea's KOSPI closed slightly higher, with gains by tech exporters such as Samsung Electronics helping balance losses by shipping issues on a near-9 percent fall in the Baltic Dry Index
Australia's S&P ASX 200 reversed course to finish up 0.9 percent, as high oil prices boosted energy firms such as Woodside. But Babcock & Brown slumped almost a quarterfor a second day on worries about its debt levels.
Hong Kong stocks extended their three-day slide, falling 1.9 percent, with Chinese financials such as Bank of East Asia, leading the way on mounting worries over inflation and credit tightening in mainland China. Shipping stocks also sank, tracking a record drop on the global freight benchmark index, on expectations of falling Chinese demand for iron ore as growth in the mainland economy moves into a lower gear.
Singapore's Straits Times Index closed 1.3 percent down, with Singapore Exchange and United Overseas Bank edging lower.
China's Shanghai Composite Index remained in the red, down 3 percent, as financial and property shares in particular continued to be weighed down by worries about inflation and tightening monetary policy.