Asian markets slip, yen rises on weak US data

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Aug 31 2010 03:56 PM | Updated as of Aug 31 2010 11:56 PM

HONG KONG - Japan's multi-billion-dollar plans to boost its economy and rein in the yen were shrugged off Tuesday as a fresh set of poor data out of the US weighed on Asian markets.

Tokyo plummeted to a 16-month low a day after the government unveiled an 11 billion dollar package of stimulus measures aimed at kickstarting growth and spending in the nation, which is being hammered by a severe bout of deflation.

That came hours after the central bank announced a fresh batch of monetary easing aimed at taming the soaring yen which is hampering the export sector that is key the economy's health.

However, traders were unimpressed with the efforts and, with weak consumer figures in the US pointing to a global slowdown, they bought into the safe-haven yen, sending it up against the dollar and euro.

The dollar, which hit a 15-year low last week, slipped to 84.25 yen in Tokyo morning trade, from 84.55 late Monday in New York. The greenback had reached the 86 yen level in anticipation of the Bank of Japan announcement Monday.

The euro fell to 106.60 yen from 107.14 in New York and to $1.2650 from $1.2663. It had hit a record low of 1.2931 Swiss francs on weak stock markets, as investors bailed out of riskier assets but it later recovered to 1.2950.

The strong yen hit exporters, with Tokyo's Nikkei index diving 3.55%, or 325.20 points, to 8,824.06, its lowest since April last year.

Sydney fell 1.09%, or 48.5 points, to end at 4,404.2, while Hong Kong shed 1.08% by the break and Shanghai was 0.44% lower.

"Some market players say the measures announced yesterday had only a limited impact but I believe it was better than no action," said Toshihiko Sakai, senior dealer at Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking.

"It was like the BoJ letting off the first arrow and the government the second, before the third arrow -- intervention -- is shot off," Sakai said, while adding it was unlikely that monetary authorities will step in markets in the near future.

Investors got an anaemic lead from Wall Street, where the Dow fell 1.39% after the Commerce Department released data showing July consumer spending rose 0.4% and incomes rose 0.2%.

The data was largely in line with forecasts but analysts said the numbers were disappointing as they showed spending outpacing income.

Consumer spending is a key driver of US economic growth, usually accounting for two-thirds of output.

Markets brushed off last week's comments from Federal Reserve head Ben Bernanke that the central bank would step in to support the US economy from falling sharply.

Eyes will now be on key US economic data due to be released this week, including industrial manufacturing numbers on Wednesday and key employment figures on Friday, both expected to indicate an economic slowdown.

Oil prices fell, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in October, shedding 68 cents to $74.02 a barrel in the afternoon.

Brent North Sea crude for October delivery slipped 62 cents to $75.98.

Gold opened at $1,237.00-$1,238.00 an ounce, slightly up from Monday's closing price of $1,236.30-$1,237.30.

In other markets:

-- Seoul closed 0.99%, or 17.38 points, lower at 1,742.75.

-- Taipei fell 1.61%, or 124.92 points, to 7,616.28.

Hon Hai shed 6.61% to 113 Taiwan dollars while TSMC was 0.84% lower to 58.9.

-- Manila closed 0.21%, or 7.56 points, higher at 3,566.23.

Petron Corp. added 0.3% to P6.34 while Metropolitan Bank and Trust added 0.5 percent at P64.20.

-- Wellington ended flat, edging down 0.71 points to 3,036.10.

Analysts said news that South Canterbury Finance collapsed owing 1.6 billion New Zealand dollars ($1.13 billion US) to 35,000 depositors had weighed on sentiment but had not been a major negative.

Financial services company Pyne Gould added 2.4% to 42 New Zealand cents while Fletcher Building shed 1.2% to NZ$7.52.