Nikkei falls, most Asia markets shut for holidays

AP News
Posted: Jan 30, 2014 11:47 PM

BANGKOK (AP) — Japan's Nikkei stock index fell Friday as the yen strengthened, but the handful of other Asian markets open during Lunar New Year holidays gained after U.S. corporate earnings continued to exceed expectations.

Financial markets are closed in China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Among stock markets not observing the holiday, India's Sensex gained 0.2 percent to 20,547.31 and Thailand's SET was up 0.6 percent at 1,271.81. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.1 percent to 5,183.20 while New Zealand's benchmark gained 0.5 percent to 5,258.40.

Japan's Nikkei 225 reversed early gains that were sparked by the government reporting increases in inflation and factory output. Inflation is a possible sign of economic recovery in Japan, which has been plagued by falling prices during two decades of stagnation.

But a rise in the yen against the U.S. dollar was negative for exporting stocks, dragging the Nikkei down 1 percent to 14,852.64.

Better-than-expected U.S. earnings encouraged some investors to buy more stocks, IG strategist Stan Shamu said in a market commentary.

Facebook stock posted double digit gains because of its quarterly profit report, which boosted other technology stocks.

Shamu said about half of the companies in the S&P 500 index have reported earnings so far with most beating expectations for revenue and earnings per share.

U.S. stocks rose sharply Thursday as investors cheered the strong earnings and data that showed the U.S. economy grew at a robust annual rate of 3.2 percent in the fourth quarter.

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The S&P 500 rose 19.99 points, or 1.1 percent, to 1,794.19. The Nasdaq composite jumped 71.69 points, or 1.8 percent, to 4,123.13 and the Dow Jones industrial average rose 109.82 points, or 0.7 percent, to 15,848.61.

Benchmark U.S crude for March delivery was down 19 cents at $98.04 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 87 cents to finish Thursday at $98.23, boosted by the GDP report.

In currencies, the euro slipped to $1.3549 from $1.3577 late Thursday. The dollar fell to 102.47 yen from 102.78 yen.