Asian markets muted amid Cyprus uncertainty

AP News
Posted: Mar 21, 2013 11:40 PM
Asian markets muted amid Cyprus uncertainty

HONG KONG (AP) — Japanese stocks tumbled Friday as investors were disappointed by a lack of specifics from the new central bank chief on boosting the economy while other Asian markets fluctuated because of uncertainty over Cyprus' troubled bank restructuring.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 fell 1.5 percent to 12,449.90 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.2 percent to 22,170.51. South Korea's Kospi was up less than 0.1 percent at 1,952.45. In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite Index added 0.1 percent to 2,326.39 after swinging between gains and losses.

Australia's S&P ASX 200 rose 0.4 percent. Taiwan's benchmark edged up, while Singapore and New Zealand dipped.

The dollar weakened to 94.91 Japanese yen from 95.01 in late trading Thursday. The yen weakened after Haruhiko Kuroda delivered his first speech late Thursday following his installation as central bank governor, reiterating a pledge to bring Asia's second biggest economy out of deflation but offering few specifics.

Other Asian markets were muted as investors remained wary while Cyprus works to restructure its banks ahead of a Monday deadline. The Mediterranean nation is trying to raise about $7.5 billion by Monday to avoid bankruptcy. If it can't, the European Central Bank has threatened to cut off emergency support for its banks, which would devastate its economy and possibly force it out of the euro.

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"Sentiment has been weighed by the continued stalemate in Cyprus, with Asian markets likely taking cue from what happened in the global market," strategists at Credit Agricole CIB wrote in a report.

In other currencies, the euro rose to $1.2911 from $1.2899 in late trading Thursday.

Oil prices rose, with benchmark crude for May delivery up 13 cents to $92.58 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York. The contract fell $1.05 to finish at $92.45 a barrel on Thursday.