Europe stocks higher; Asia falls amid Sydney siege

AP and AFP

HONG KONG — European stocks inched higher Monday while Asian markets fell as weak Japanese data, slumping oil prices and a hostage situation in Australia’s largest city induced caution.

In early European trading, France’s CAC-40 was up 0.3 percent at 4,120.44 and Germany’s DAX gained 0.1 percent to 9,600.89. Britain’s FTSE 100 added 0.1 percent to 6,307.59. Futures pointed to a rebound on Wall Street after Friday’s decline, which produced the worst weekly loss in U.S. shares in more than two years. Dow futures were up 0.6 percent at 17,288 and S&P 500 futures gained 0.6 percent to 2,002.60.

Sydney shed 0.64 percent as a hostage crisis erupted in the heart of the city, with terrified people cowering inside a cafe where an Islamic flag was displayed against a window, sparking a security lockdown in an area home to government and corporate headquarters. Stocks on the Australian market dropped 33.5 points to close at 5,186.1, while in Tokyo the Nikkei 225 index closed down 1.57 percent, or 272.18 points, at 17,099.40. Seoul finished flat, falling 1.35 points to 1,920.36. Tokyo slipped after Abe’s widely expected election win in a snap poll on Sunday that he had billed as a referendum on his economic policies. Investors were also focused on the Bank of Japan’s quarterly Tankan survey that showed confidence among major Japanese manufacturers edged down in the three months to December. HK Closes Lower,

Shanghai Ends Up Hong Kong stocks ended 0.95 percent lower Monday, tracking losses on Wall Street, but Shanghai bucked the trend of other major markets in Asia by closing up. The benchmark Hang Seng Index shed 221.35 points to 23,027.85 on turnover of HK$68.62 billion (US$8.85 billion). In Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific Airways fell 0.58 percent to HK$17.26 while HSBC slipped 1.40 percent to H$K74.10. But in mainland China, the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.52 percent, or 15.25 points, to 2,953.42 on turnover of 411.5 billion yuan (US$67.3 billion). The Shenzhen Composite Index, which tracks stocks on China’s second exchange, rose 1.40 percent, or 20.74 points, to 1,500.56 on turnover of 285.0 billion yuan. The Shanghai index suffered the biggest one-day fall in more than five years last week after it had earlier risen above the psychologically symbolic 3,000 level following a surprise interest cut from China’s central bank. China stressed developing new growth drivers for the economy and encouraging innovation at the Central Economic Work Conference, concluded last Thursday. But construction companies rose on hopes of more infrastructure projects. Shanghai-listed China Railway Erju Co. surged by its 10 percent daily limit to 9.89 yuan while Shenzhen-listed Chengdu Road & Bridge Engineering Co. also jumped 10 percent to 6.00 yuan. Gold was at US$1,210.54 an ounce at 1035 GMT compared with US$1,225.00 late Friday.