Japan's Nikkei soars; Other stock markets stall

  • Article by: PAMELA SAMPSON
  • Associated Press
  • January 4, 2013 - 3:13 AM

BANGKOK - Japan's benchmark stock index soared on its first trading day of the new year Friday, as investors reacted to a weakening yen and Washington's temporary skirting of the so-called fiscal cliff.

But other world markets stalled as enthusiasm faded over the last-minute budget deal reached in Washington to avoid steep, automatic tax increases and spending cuts that would have taken effect Tuesday. The measure, however, was largely seen as crisis avoidance — and puts off hard decisions about how to reduce government spending and deal with America's massive debt.

European stocks were mostly lower in early trading. Britain's FTSE 100 was marginally lower at 6,045.75. Germany's DAX shed 0.1 percent at 7,745.77 and France's CAC-40 was 0.3 percent lower at 3,710.51. Wall Street looked set for a high open, however, with Dow Jones futures rising 0.1 percent to 13,331 and S&P 500 futures adding nearly 0.2 percent to 1,456.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 jumped 2.8 percent to 10,688.11, its highest closing in 22 months. Much of the enthusiasm for Japanese shares comes with the steadily weakening currency, a big help to Japanese companies that sell abroad.

The dollar rose to the 88-yen range in Tokyo on Friday, the first time in 29 months, Kyodo News Agency said. Investors have high hopes that new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's policies, centered on loose monetary policy and public spending, will wrest the world's third-largest economy out of the doldrums.

Export shares boomed. Suzuki Motor Corp. soared 7.9 percent, Nikon Corp. advanced 5.2 percent and Toyota Motor Corp. jumped 6.4 percent.

Elsewhere, however, investor fervor wilted. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index fell 0.3 percent to 23,331.09. South Korea's Kospi lost 0.4 percent to 2,011.94, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.4 percent to 4,723.80. Benchmarks in Taiwan and New Zealand fell. Mainland China was mixed. Indonesia and the Philippines rose.

Wall Street stocks tumbled on Thursday after a transcript of the last meeting of the U.S. Federal Reserve unveiled a divided opinion among central bankers over how long the Fed should keep buying bonds to support the economy.

The losses came despite a monthly employment survey by payroll provider ADP showing businesses added 215,000 jobs last month, the most in 10 months and much higher than November's total of 148,000.

"Risk assets largely weakened overnight as the less dovish FOMC minutes more than offset earlier gains triggered by a good job report. Indeed, better-than-expected improvement in the job market may fan expectation for an earlier removal of quantitative and monetary easing," analysts at Credit Agricole CIB said in a market commentary.

Investors will keep an eye on the U.S. monthly jobs report due later in the day. The figures often move markets because they are a key indicator for the health of the U.S. economy, which has struggled to accelerate in recent months.

Benchmark oil for February delivery fell 69 cents to $92.23 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract ended the day down 20 cents at $92.92 per barrel on the Nymex on Thursday.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3012 from $1.3062 in late trading Thursday. The dollar rose to 88.30 yen from 87.18 yen.


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