Asian stocks mixed as US jobs, profit-taking weigh

Saturday, 15 January 2011 00:04 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

HONG KONG (AFP) - – Asian stock markets were mixed on Friday as weak US jobs data and profit-taking were tempered by a strong performance by chip giant Intel and hopes for the global recovery.

The euro strengthened in European trade, extending gains in New York Thursday after impressive bond sales in Italy, Spain and Portugal provided some relief from worries about European debt.

Tokyo closed 0.86 percent, or 90.72 points, lower at 10,499.04 as dealers locked in profits after surging to an eight-month high in the previous session.

Shanghai fell 1.29 percent, or 36.27 points, to 2,791.34.

But Sydney edged 0.14 percent, or 6.6 points, higher to close at 4,801.8 and Hong Kong added 0.18 percent, or 44.25 points, to finish on 24,283.23.

Traders took their cue from the United States, where the Dow slipped 0.20 percent after the Labor Department said new US claims for unemployment benefits rose 35,000 last week over the previous week.

New claims touched 445,000 in the week ending January 8. Economists had expected claims to hit just 415,000.

Traders were keeping an eye on the release later Friday in United States of key economic data including inflation, industrial production, consumer confidence and business inventories.

In Japan, Kenichi Hirano, operating officer at Tachibana Securities, told Dow Jones Newswires: “Profit-taking kicked in amid signs of overheating in the Japanese market” after the Nikkei hit a fresh eight-month high Thursday.

However, technology shares were upbeat after Intel posted its best earnings yet in New York, with a net profit of $11.7 billion in 2010, a 167 percent jump year on year.

The region clocked up strong gains on Thursday after a successful bond issue by Portugal on Wednesday, despite concerns the debt-laden country would need an International Monetary Fund bailout.

Spain and Italy also undertook strong sales on Thursday, easing tensions over European sovereign debt.

Madrid sold its maximum target of 3.0 billion euros ($3.9 billion) in five-year bonds with demand outstripping supply by two-to-one.

Italy raised its maximum target of 6.0 billion euros in bonds Thursday.

European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet added to upbeat sentiment by saying: “It is absolutely crystal clear that we will always do what is necessary to deliver price stability.”

Improved confidence in the eurozone sent the euro soaring on Friday in London to $1.3435 from $1.3358 Thursday in New York. It had been at $1.3128 before the bonds auction.

The single unit eased to 110.53 yen from 110.62 yen. It had been sitting at 108.82 prior to the bond sales.

The dollar was lower at 82.52 yen against 82.79 yen in late New York trading.

Oil sat around the key $100 mark as the weaker greenback made the black gold more attractive.

Brent North Sea crude for February delivery was up 30 cents to $98.36. It had hit 98.67 at one point in New York Thursday before easing back.

New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for February, dipped 23 cents to $91.17 per barrel.

Gold closed at $1,373.50-$1,374.50 an ounce in Hong Kong, down from Thursday’s close of $1,385.00-$1,386.00.