Asian markets slip as rally peters out

AP News
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Posted: Nov 12, 2009 12:58 AM

Asia's four-day stock market rally petered out Thursday as investors turned cautious.

The markets rose in early trading following another gain overnight on Wall Street and news that South Korea left its key interest rate at a record low, signaling that most Asian central banks are in no hurry to raise borrowing costs. Australia also reported an unexpected surge in the number of jobs last month.

But some investors started selling, thinking the recent rally had run its course now that China had reported positive industrial production and retail sales figures the previous day.

"I'm expecting a wave a profit-taking on a global basis, so we should start to see these rallies winding down," said Kirby Daley, senior strategist at Newedge Group in Hong Kong. "Asian markets may not be as susceptible as European and U.S. markets, but they're certainly not immune."

Japan's Nikkei 225 Index dropped 80.14 points, or 0.8 percent, to 9,791.54, while Hong Kong's Hang slipped 111.18, or 0.5 percent, to 22,516.03.

South Korea's Kospi dipped 0.2 percent to 1,592. Markets in Taiwan, India and Singapore also fell.

Mainland China's Shanghai Composite index gained 0.5 percent.

In Australia, Australia's S&P/ASX200 benchmark was down 0.2 percent at 4,747.9. The government reported a large increase in jobs last month, with the number of people employed rising by 24,500 in October. Still, the jobless rate rose to 5.8 percent, showing the pace of job creation was lagging the number of people looking for work.

Though another sign Australia's economy was rebounding, the news put pressure on the country's central bank to raise interest rates again. The Australian dollar rose strongly as a result, hitting its highest point this year at 0.9369 against the dollar.

Positive numbers from China Wednesday, including a 16 percent jump in industrial production in October, encourage investors in Asia and the U.S., but Daley warned that much of the recovery in China has been driven by massive government stimulus that will wear off next year.

"In short term there's no argument to what's going on in China, and that's helping Australia with its commodities and South Korea too," he said.

"But there will be an end-game there. After that, there will be no natural driver for Asia," said Daley, who is particularly bearish on Japan because of its expanding fiscal deficit and rapidly aging population.

Overnight, Wall Street climbed higher in light trading with some investors off for Veterans' Day, lifted by weakness in the dollar, the Chinese numbers and signals from Federal Reserve officials that borrowing rates would remain low.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 44.29, or 0.4 percent, to 10,291.26, at one point hitting its highest since Oct. 3, 2008. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 5.50, or 0.5 percent, to 1,098.51, while the Nasdaq composite index rose 15.82, or 0.7 percent, to 2,166.90.

U.S. futures pointed to a lackluster opening on Wall Street. Dow futures gained 0.1 percent while S&P futures shed 0.5 percent.

Oil prices hovered above $79 a barrel in Asia, with benchmark crude for December delivery down 2 cents to $79.26. The contract added 23 cents.

Gold prices continued their swing higher, rising $5.4, or 0.5 percent, to $1,120 an ounce.

The dollar was little changed at 89.80 yen, and the euro ticked up to $1.4992.