HONG KONG: Asian markets were mixed Wednesday, with Japan's Nikkei giving up earlier gains despite a surprise pick-up in business confidence and the dollar's breaching of the 110 yen level for the first time since 2008.
The dollar extended its run-up despite weak US indicators, but profit-taking in the afternoon saw it pare those gains. The euro continued to struggle after eurozone inflation hit a five-year low.
Tokyo ended 0.56% lower, giving up 91.27 points to 16,082.25, while Seoul sank 1.41%, or 28.55 points, to close at 1,991.54.
However, Sydney added 0.78%, or 41.29 points, to close at 5,334.1.
Hong Kong and Shanghai were shut for public holidays but markets are keeping a nervous watch on the southern Chinese financial hub as a pro-democracy protest moves into its fourth day.
Following the weekend police tear-gassing of demonstrators, there had been fears of clashes as the city's government marked Chinese National Day Wednesday. But by mid-morning there had been no incidents.
Protesters, who have shut down some of the city's main thoroughfares, have vowed to stay put until Beijing agrees to give them full universal suffrage.
In Japan, the central bank said its closely watched Tankan survey showed confidence among large manufacturers increased to plus 13 in July-September. Markets had forecast a reading of plus 10.
The figure is welcome news for the government after the index dropped to 12 in April-June following a sales tax hike at the start of the quarter. The index marks the difference between the percentage of firms that are upbeat and those that see conditions as unfavourable.
WALL STREET HIT BY WEAK DATA
However, the reading for large non-manufacturing sector firms sank to plus 13 from plus 19.
On currency markets, the dollar climbed to 110.09 yen – its highest since August 2008 – as investors bet on an early rate rise by the US Federal Reserve as the economy picks up pace, while the Bank of Japan mulls easing measures to jumpstart growth at home.
However, it later pulled back to sit at 109.77 yen in the afternoon, against 109.64 yen in New York.
The greenback gains came despite a rare batch of weak data out of Washington, with the Conference Board index of US consumer confidence falling to 86.0 from 93.4 in August due to concerns about the jobs market.
On Wall Street, Tuesday the Dow eased 0.17%, the S&P 500 fell 0.28% and the Nasdaq lost 0.28%.
In other forex trade the euro bought US$1.2625 and 138.58 yen against US$1.2631 and 138.50 yen.
The single currency slipped below US$1.26 Tuesday for the first time since September 2012 after data showed inflation at just 0.3% in September, its lowest since 2009, fuelling fears of deflation in the troubled bloc.
In China, the official purchasing managers' index of manufacturing activity showed growth stalled in September, sticking at 51.5.
The figure was unchanged from August and slightly above the 50.2 figure given by British bank HSBC in its own survey released Tuesday.
On oil markets, US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for November delivery rose 36 cents to US$91.52 a barrel in afternoon trade and Brent crude advanced 38 cents to US$95.05.
Gold was at US$1,207.43 an ounce against US$1,207.30 late Tuesday. – AFP