Asian Markets End Mixed, Investors Fear Recession
Asian markets were mixed Friday as investors struggled to factor in, what extent potential recessions in Britain, Europe and Japan would have on corporate Asia's bottom line.
The U.S. dollar rose to a six-month high against the euro on Friday as gold prices tumbled to a 2008 low and oil slipped, leading investors to increase bets on easing inflation and slower global growth. The euro tumbled below $1.48 to the lowest since February, extending losses after data released on Thursday showed the euro zone economy shrank in the second quarter for the first time since records began being kept in 1995.
U.S. light crude futures edged below $114 a barrel, with investors feeling more confident that a ceasefire in hostilities between Russia and Georgiawould hold. Since hitting an all-time high of $147.27 a month ago, oil has lost a fifth of its value as deep-seated worries about slowing demand from big consumers like China.
Japan's Nikkei 225 Average closed half a percent higher in holiday-thinned trade, helped higher by exporters such as Toyota Motor on a softer yen, while shippers such as Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, advanced following sharp gains in a key freight index.
Australian shares ended virtually unchanged as losses in the resources sector on concerns
about falling commodity prices offset gains by banks and Australia's top phone company, Telstra.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index was down 1.1 percent after a spate of disappointing earnings announcements, followed up by broker downgrades of several stocks. Offshore oil producer CNOOC fell 5 percent, leading losses on the main index, as it tracked a retreat in crude oil prices. The stock had risen 7.5 percent on Wednesday. Gold miner Zijin Mining dropped over 4 percent after gold tumbled nearly 3 percent and slipped below $800an ounce for the first time since December 2007.
Singapore's Straits Times Index was 0.7 percent weaker. Wilmar shares fell 3.5 percent. This after reporting its profit more than tripled on high palm oil prices, but the world's largest listed palm oil firm warned of moderating prices and a tough times ahead.
China's Shanghai Composite Index ended 0.6 percent higher, buoyed by better-than-expected investment data, but trading remained very thin because of worries about an economic slowdown. Metals-related shares rose, encouraged by progress in a major steel industry restructuring. Anshan Iron & Steel Group has paid about 1.7 billion yuan for a 5.1
percent stake in each of Panzhihua steel group's listed firms, bolstering Panzhihua's consolidation plan, the official Shanghai Securities News reported on Friday.
Markets in South Korea are closed for the Liberation Day holiday. Markets will reopen Monday.