Asian markets mixed, trade light in absence of cues from United States


Asian markets were mixed Monday, with volume light on most bourses without fresh cues from the U.S., where markets are shut for the Labor Day holiday.

Japan’s benchmark stock index closed slightly lower, while New Zealand, Philippine and South Korean stocks inched higher. Share prices in China and Singapore were up at midafternoon, and profit-taking pushed Hong Kong stocks lower.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index fell 44.16 points, or 0.27 percent, to close at 16,524.93 points on the Tokyo Stock Exchange Monday. The index had added 2.57 percent to Friday.

Profit-taking in blue chips drove trade in Japan following Friday’s jump on hopes the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank may step in to deal with the ongoing credit crisis. Global markets have been volatile in recent weeks since the emergence of spreading problems with U.S. subprime mortgages and the subsequent tightening of credit.

New Zealand shares closed moderately higher – up 0.2 percent at 4,125.76 on slim volume _ as the U.S. holiday dried up liquidity.

Brokers expect trade to remain muted for the early part of the week.

“The reality is, there’s only one market that moves the others along,” said Stuart Eaves, a Wellington-based broker at Waddell Johnston McCarthy.

Philippine shares finished up 0.1 percent at 3,369.14 in moderate volume after briefly swinging to negative territory as the market consolidated gains in the aftermath of a two-day, 4.8-percent rise. In Seoul, the Korea Composite Stock Price Index, or Kospi, rose 0.5 percent to 1,881.81, with steel shares leading the way.

Elsewhere, by midafternoon, China’s main index was up 1.8 percent, while Hong Kong’s blue chip Hang Seng Index was off 0.9 percent. Malaysia’s main benchmark was up 0.81 percent, and Singapore’s Straits Times Index had edged down 0.1 percent.

In Tokyo currencies, the U.S. dollar was trading at 115.96 yen at 2:50 p.m (0550 GMT), up from 115.81 yen late Friday in New York. The euro rose to US$1.3646 from US$1.3624.