Asian markets mixed; Japan stocks down despite rate cut

October 31st, 2008 - 9:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Tokyo, Oct 31 (DPA) Markets across the Asia-Pacific ended a roller-coaster week Friday with key bourses in Hong Kong and Tokyo down despite a much-anticipated rate cut by the Bank of Japan.Asian markets had posted significant gains mid-week with daily surges of up to 10 percent or even more after a rate cut in the US, making up for similarly heavy losses at the beginning of the week.

The Bank of Japan Friday cut its key short-term interest rate to 0.3 percent from 0.5 percent to help the world’s second-largest economy weather the global financial crisis.

The bank’s decision was “prompted by substantial changes in economic and financial conditions,” Governor Masaaki Shirakawa said, adding that the global market turmoil was affecting Japan’s corporate capital spending, exports and production.

Japan’s central bank had maintained the overnight lending rate at 0.5 percent since February last year when it raised the rate from 0.25 percent. The bank ended a six-year policy of maintaining near-0-percent interest rates in July 2006.

Despite the rate cut, Japan’s benchmark Nikkei Average index ended Friday’s trading 5 percent lower at 8,576.98. The yen remained higher against other currencies.

The broader Topix index of all first-section issues also fell 3.59 percent to 867.12.

While the Japanese government welcomed the central bank’s rate cut, economists said it would do little to prop up the economy.

“We can’t expect the economy to lift up too much from the 0.2-point rate cut,” said Takahide Kiuchi, senior economist at Nomura Securities Co.

Hong Kong stocks fell 2.52 percent Friday at the end of one of the most turbulent weeks in the history of the Hang Seng Index.

The blue-chip index lost 361.18 points, slipping back below 14,000 to 13,968.67.

Analysts blamed the fall on profit-taking after three-consecutive days of gains, which had seen the index bounce back by 23 percent after recording one of its biggest daily losses Monday.

China could also not escape losses at the end of the week with the Shanghai Composite index trading down 1.97 percent at 1,729.79 while Shenzhen’s SSE Component index lost 1.19 percent to 5,839.33.

Shares continued their rebound on the Seoul stock exchange, tracking overnight gains on the US market after suffering heavy losses earlier this week.

The benchmark Kospi index soared 2.6 percent to close at 1,113.06 while the main index of the technology-heavy Kosdaq market rose 4.05 percent to 308.03.

Taiwan stocks rose nearly 4 percent on an overnight rally on Wall Street and in expectation of expanded Taiwan-China exchanges. The Taiex index soared 3.99 percent to close at 4,870.6.

Smaller markets in South-East Asia ended the week on a stronger note with the Jakarta Composite Index up 7.06 percent at 1,256.70 and Philippine shares up 4.62 percent as investors snapped up undervalued stocks.

The Philippine Stock Exchange’s 30-share composite index gained 86.16 points to close at 1,951.09.

Analysts said investors could not resist stocks that have been grossly undervalued while some companies bought back their shares to enhance their value.

In Bangkok, the Stock Exchange of Thailand closed up 2.01 percent at 416.53.

Australia and Singapore ended the week almost flat with Sydney’s ASX 200 index up 0.42 percent to 4,018 and Singapore’s Straits Times Index down 0.43 percent at 1,794.2.

New Zealand’s NZX 50 was up 2.1 per cent at 2,820.86.

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