Asian shares close mixed on eurozone fears
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HONG KONG, Feb 15 AFP
February 15 2013, 8:54PM
Asian stocks have closed mixed while the euro eased and markets awaited the start of a Group of 20 meeting in Russia.
Tokyo fell 1.18 per cent, or 133.45 points, to 11,173.83 ahead of the G20 weekend summit where Japan's controversial monetary policy will figure prominently.
Hong Kong gained 0.13 per cent, or 31.31 points, to 23,444.56 while Seoul ended flat, edging up 1.57 points to 1,981.18.
Sydney also finished flat, nudging down three points to 5,033.9, although it is still sitting around 34-month highs.
Shanghai and Taipei are closed for the Lunar New Year Holiday.
Investor confidence was hit by news that recession in the 17-nation eurozone deepened sharply in the final three months of 2012 as the debt crisis continued to sap growth.
The eurozone economy shrank 0.6 per cent in the three months to December, which compared with a contraction of 0.1 per cent in the previous quarter, according to official data.
In the second quarter of 2012, it contracted 0.2 per cent, meaning that the recession has now lasted three quarters. The eurozone had meanwhile registered zero growth in the first quarter of last year.
Analysts said the latest figures were worse than expected, with the major economies, including powerhouse Germany, also dragged down.
For 2012 as a whole, the eurozone economy contracted 0.5 per cent and the wider 27-member European Union by 0.3 per cent.
"We're sort of desensitised to a certain extent to a proper knee-jerk reaction, but given soft leads from Europe, it's led to declines in Asia," said Jason Hughes, head of premium client management at IG Markets in Singapore.
On currency markets, the euro weakened to $US1.3328 and Y123.14, from $US1.3385 and Y124.10 in New York.
The dollar also skidded to Y92.37 from Y92.87, with the Japanese unit pulling back some of its recent losses ahead of the G20 meeting in Moscow that is expected to focus on a growing currency row.
Finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of 20 leading economies will meet from Friday as Tokyo comes under attack, mostly from Europe, over its monetary policy of big spending, which has pushed down the yen.
The Bank of Japan (BoJ), under pressure from the new government, last month unveiled a plan for unlimited monetary easing and a target for two per cent inflation.
The moves, which had been expected, added to the yen's weakness and sparked charges of manipulation from around the world and fuelled fears of a currency war where rival nations drive down their currencies to gain a trade advantage.
On Thursday Japan's Asahi daily, citing a copy of a draft joint statement, reported that the G20 would warn members off any competitive currency devaluations.
"Ahead of the G20 meeting, caution is emerging over the yen's outlook," Hiroichi Nishi, general manager of equity at SMBC Nikko Securities, told Dow Jones Newswires.
Wall Street provided an anaemic lead, despite two giant mergers, including that of American Airlines and US Airways to create the largest American carrier.
Heinz also announced that billionaire Warren Buffett's investment firm Berkshire Hathaway would partner 3G Capital to buy the ketchup maker in a $US28 billion ($A27.18 billion) deal.
The Dow edged down 0.07 per cent, the S&P 500 edged up 0.07 per cent and the Nasdaq nudged 0.06 per cent higher.
Oil prices were lower, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March, falling 24 cents to $US97.07 a barrel, while Brent North Sea crude for April delivery shedding 35 cents to $US117.65.
Gold was at $US1,632.20 at 0820 GMT (1920 AEDT) compared with $US1,643.25 late on Thursday.
In other markets:
- Manila gained 0.13 per cent, or 8.23 points, to 6,521.64.
Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co. gained 0.53 per cent to 112 pesos while SM Investment Corp. fell 1.00 per cent to 987 pesos.
- Wellington ended 1.00 per cent lower, sliding 42.46 points to 4,196.74.
Auckland Airport slumped 5.78 per cent to NZ$2.77, Fletcher Building was off 1.77 per cent at NZ$8.87 and Telecom was steady at NZ$2.22.