Asian shares down, yen stays strong

Preeti JHA
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A woman in Tokyo on October 25, 2013 passes an electronic board displaying the Nikkei index level

Asian markets slipped Friday, despite a positive lead from Wall Street after a mixed bag of earnings reports, as the strong yen dragged down Japanese stocks.

Upbeat consumer prices data from Japan -- excluding fuel costs and volatile fresh food prices -- showed an on-year rise for the fourth consecutive month in September.

But it failed to lift sentiment amid ongoing concerns over whether the government's much-touted "Abenomics" growth-blitz will reverse two decades of stagnant growth and falling prices.

Tokyo tumbled 2.75 percent or 398.22 points to 14,088.19, while Seoul slipped 0.6 percent or 12.30 points to 2,034.39. Sydney bucked the regional trend by adding 0.25 percent or 13.4 points to finish at 5,386.3.

Shanghai ended down 1.45 percent or 31.36 points to 2,132.96, and Hong Kong fell 0.6 percent or 137.48 points to 22,698.34.

The dollar was changing hands at 97.06 yen in Tokyo on Friday, from 97.29 yen in New York on Thursday, with the greenback under pressure over speculation the US Federal Reserve would delay winding down its monetary easing plan.

"Enthusiasm for equities remains strong as Japanese corporates enter the meat of earnings reporting season," said SMBC Nikko Securities general manager of equities Hiroichi Nishi.

"However, further upside is progressively difficult for the market with little potential seen for the dollar to rise much beyond current levels," Nishi said.

A strong yen is a negative for Japanese exporters as it makes their products less competitive abroad and erode income when repatriated.

In the US, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.62 percent or 95.88 points to 15,509.21, while the broad-based S&P 500 added 0.33 percent or 5.69 points to 1,752.07.

Peter Cardillo, director of investment research at Rockwell Global Capital, said the market is "feeding on itself" amid recent momentum and confidence the Federal Reserve will maintain an aggressive stimulus policy.

"We're in a market that has a momentum, going up fast, it's going to have to pause some day," Cardillo said. "But right now, it's all about easy money, cheap money, as long as the Fed doesn't taper."

Of the 213 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings so far, 141 have exceeded expectations and 43 have missed their targets, with the remainder in line with forecasts, according to a report by S&P Capital IQ.

The euro, which rose past the $1.38 mark to hit a two-year high Thursday, remained strong, buying $1.3801.

The euro hit a peak of $1.3827, its highest level since early November 2011, in New York Thursday before coming down to $1.3798 in afternoon trade. The single currency also bought 134.37 yen against 134.26 yen in US trade.

In oil trade, New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate for delivery in December, was up 25 cents at $97.36, while Brent North Sea crude for December gained 26 cents to $107.25.

Gold rose to $1,340.35 at 1059 GMT compared with $1,339.48 on Thursday.

In other markets:

-- Bangkok lost 0.78 percent or 11.44 points to 1,454.88.

Oil company Bangchak Petroleum fell 2.17 percent to 33.75 baht, while coal producer Banpu dropped 1.67 percent to 29.50 baht.

-- Jakarta ended down 0.30 percent, or 14.00 points, at 4,580.85.

Cigarette maker Hanjaya Mandala Sampoerna rose 2.09 percent to 68,400 rupiah, while retailer Ramayana Lestari Sentosa fell 3.55 percent to 1,360 rupiah.

-- Kuala Lumpur's main index was flat, closing 1.36 points lower at 1,817.57 as the market awaited the 2014 national budget, announced after the close.

Oil and gas firm SapuraKencana lost 1.9 percent to close at 4.19 ringgit, property developer UEM Sunrise weakened 1.1 percent to 2.60 ringgit, and power firm Tenaga Nasional slipped 1.4 to end at 9.37 ringgit.

-- Manila fell 0.67 percent, or 43.96 points, to 6,539.81.

Philippine Long Distance Telephone shed 0.35 percent to 2,850 pesos while Ayala Corp. fell 1.80 percent to 600 pesos.

-- Mumbai fell 0.20 percent or 41.91 points to 20,683.52 points.

Private aluminium producer Hindalco fell 4.71 percent to 109.51 rupees, while steel producer Tata Steel fell 3.09 percent to 321.85 rupees.

-- Singapore closed down 0.39 percent, or 12.71 points, at 3,205.24.

Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation eased 0.48 percent to Sg$10.40 while Singapore Telecom was down 1.32 percent at Sg$3.73.

-- Taipei fell 0.8 percent, or 67.1 points, to 8,346.62.

HTC rose 3.09 percent to Tw$150.0 while Hon Hai fell 0.79 percent to Tw$75.2.

-- Wellington rose 0.59 percent, or 28.41 points, to 4,863.35.

Chorus climbed 2.40 percent to NZ$2.56, Fletcher Building added 1.27 percent to NZ$9.60 and Telecom Corp fell 0.86 percent to NZ$2.315.