HONG KONG, March 30 (BSS/AFP) - Asian markets mostly fell today amid growing concerns over the global economy after an unimpressive set of US data, while weak Japanese figures and a stronger yen weighed on Tokyo.
Trade was also subdued as investors balanced their books on
the last day of the quarter, which saw a rally at the start of
the year subside in the final few weeks.
Tokyo lost 0.31 percent, or 31.23 points, to close at
10,083.56, Sydney finished flat, edging down 2.7 points to
4,335.2 and Seoul was also almost unchanged, nudging 0.37 points
lower to 2,014.04.
In the afternoon Hong Kong was 0.58 percent off and Shanghai
Wall Street again provided an unenthusiastic lead. New claims
for unemployment benefit hit a four-year low but the rate of
decline was slower than anticipated, according to analysts.
Traders also took little notice of confirmation that the
world's biggest economy grew 3.0 percent in the October-December
The Dow closed 0.15 percent higher, the S&P 500 lost 0.16
percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq gave up 0.31 percent.
Japan was unable to provide any perk after announcing an
unexpected 1.2 percent fall in February industrial production,
against forecasts for a 1.3 percent rise.
The fall comes after Tokyo said the weak economy was showing
signs of picking up after industrial production in January rose
by a revised 1.9 percent.
The results out of Washington and Tokyo are the latest to
pour cold water on a recent spurt of optimism over the global
economy that had been fuelled by rising US jobs growth and an
easing of Europe's debt crisis.
"Worries about global growth have been steadily increasing
with the lengthening patch of softer data," Barclays Capital said
in a note.
"Financial markets are starting to price in concerns about a
slowdown in China," it added, referring to a spate of figures
from Beijing that show slumping exports and contracting
manufacturing activity in the Asian giant.
Increased concerns have led investors back to the safe haven
of the yen in the past two weeks, helping it claw back some of
its recent losses.
The dollar was at 81.90 yen in Tokyo from 82.42 late Thursday
in New York. The US unit had flirted with the 84-yen level
earlier in the month after Japan announced fresh monetary easing.
The euro bought 109.40 yen, compared with 109.64 yen in New
York, well down from the 111.00 yen seen last week. The euro was
also at $1.3354 compared with $1.3301.
On oil markets New York's main contract, West Texas
Intermediate crude for delivery in May, gained 54 cents to
$103.32 per barrel in the afternoon while Brent North Sea crude
for May settlement was up 30 cents at $122.69.
Gold was at $1,662.10 an ounce at 0610 GMT, compared with
$1,656.60 late Thursday.
In other markets:
-- Taipei rose 0.77 percent, or 60.34 points, to 7,933.00.
Hon Hai Precision Industry, the parent of Apple supplier
Foxconn, fell 1.29 percent to Tw$114.5 after being singled out in
a report on labour conditions in China. Taiwan Semiconductor
Manufacturing Co rose 0.95 percent to Tw$84.9.
-- Wellington gained 0.40 percent, or 14.11 points, to
Telecom was down 1.02 percent at NZ$2.42, Contact added 0.86
percent to NZ$4.71 and Fletcher Building added 0.15 percent to