Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Asian Markets Mostly Lower

Most Asian markets closed lower Friday after euro-zone finance ministers withheld approval for a second bailout in Greece, calling for recently approved austerity measures to be ratified before more funds would be released.

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South Korea's Kospi fell 1% to 1993.71, Australia's S&P/ASX 200 slid 0.9% to 4245.3 and Japan's Nikkei Stock Average shed 0.6% to 8947.17. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index fell 1.1% to 20783.86, while China's Shanghai Composite rose 0.1% to 2351.98.

Greece political leaders reached a long-awaited austerity agreement Thursday that was expected to lead to a new round of international aid. This, along with a dip in U.S. jobless claims, supported modest gains on Wall Street.

However, European finance ministers's approval of more aid awaits the Greek parliament's passage of that austerity package. The ministers are scheduled to meet again Wednesday and are expected to approve release of the funds provided that Greece has taken that next step.

At a joint press conference after a meeting in Brussels, Eurogroup President Jean-Claude Junker and European Economic Commissioner Olli Rehn said Greece's future is now in the hands of those who have the political responsibility in the government.

Credit Agricole strategist Mitul Kotecha said, "The fact European finance ministers have withheld more funds from Greece until the austerity measures begin to be implemented suggests further uncertainty on the horizon."

Financials were mostly lower across the region following those latest developments in Greece. In Hong Kong, Agricultural Bank of China tumbled 3.4%, Bank of Communications slumped 5.1% and China Citic Bank and Ping An Insurance Group each dropped 2%.

In Tokyo, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group fell 2.4%, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group dropped 2.8% and Daiwa Securities Group lost 2.1%.

Japanese auto makers were weaker. Toyota Motor fell 2.2%, Honda Motor lost 1.8% and Suzuki Motor declined 1.1%.

On the upside shares, of Toshiba rose 1.5% on news the U.S. has approved the construction of its first new nuclear plant in some three decades, with Toshiba's Westinghouse Electric subsidiary set to build it.

In Seoul, Samsung Electronics declined 2%, LG Electronics slumped 3.9% and Hyundai Motor dropped 1.1%.

China's trade surplus widened surprisingly in January as imports dropped sharply, although analysts said soothingly that the data may reflect holiday-related distortions rather than a deterioration in underlying economic trends.

In Sydney, major miners were notable decliners, with Rio Tinto, having posted a sharp drop in annual profit late Thursday, down 2.3%, and BHP Billiton matching it. But Newcrest Mining climbed 1.7% after posting a 50% jump in first-half profit due to stronger gold prices.

Shares of remained suspended Friday in Hong Kong, with a Reuters report saying the company's parent firm planned to take it private.

Energy plays were losers in Hong Kong, as Nymex crude oil futures slipped in electronic trading. China Oil & Gas Group dropped 5.5%, while PetroChina fell 1.9%.

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