Asian Markets Waver on Mixed Signs of Recovery
Asian markets were mixed Friday and the yen slipped, after upbeat results from JPMorgan and Google kept a revival of risk taking alive, with shares outside Japan on track for a sixth week of gains.
A jump in Chinese industrial output in March has added to a sense previously instilled by U.S. indicators that the pace of deterioration has slowed from the alarming rate of just a few months ago. Still, comments from policymakers about the economic outlook were cautious and hardly embraced the potential for a speedy recovery. Federal Reserve official Janet Yellen said in a speech there are tentative signs of stabilitybut it was still impossible to know how deep the U.S. recession will ultimately be.
Google's quarterly profit topped expectations, helped by cost controls, but Chief Executive Eric Schmidt said the economic environment remained tough with users still searching but buying less.
The yen slipped as modest risk taking returned as equities rose. The dollar rose against the yen , after briefly slipping below its 200-day moving average on Thursday. The euro strengthened against the yen but slipped against the dollar . Oil was trading under $50 a barrel.
Japan's Nikkei 225 Average gained 1.7 percent but marked its first negative week since early March. Steelmakers surged after Nippon Steel negotiated a smaller-than-expected price cut with Toyota Motor. Sony and other high-tech shares also jumped after Google's quarterly profit topped expectations and world's top cellphone maker Nokia said it saw signs of stabilizing demand.
Seoul shares ended half a percent lower, with losses by banks such as Hana Financial outweighing gains by technology issues such as Hynix Semiconductor on rising DRAM spot prices.
Australian shares shed gains in late trade to end flat, with some of the shine coming off banking shares after they earlier tracked their U.S. peers higher, though mining stocks were broadly firmer.
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Hong Kong shares rose 0.1 percent as banks and property investors found encouragement from Wall Street's gains. Property stocks got off to a firm start after Goldman Sachs upgraded its call on the sector to neutral from cautious, owing to sooner-than-expected signs of stabilization in major economies. China posted its slowest quarter of growth since records began in 1992 but economists saw positive signs in its quarter-on-quarter performance.
Singapore's Straits Times Index closed 0.3 percent higher. Container shipping firm Neptune Orient Lines was down 1.4 percent after it forecast an estimated net loss of $240 million in the first quarter due to worsening of business conditions.
China's Shanghai Composite Index slipped 1.2 percent in active trade with energy and resource shares hit by profit-taking, while China Eastern Airlines sank its daily limit after reporting a record loss for 2008.