Asia stock markets edge up after big sell-off

AP News
Posted: May 23, 2013 10:54 PM
Asia stock markets edge up after big sell-off

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets staged a mild recovery Friday, a day after being routed by unexpectedly weak Chinese manufacturing and fears the Federal Reserve will start withdrawing its monetary stimulus.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index, which plummeted more than 7 percent Thursday, bounced back a sizeable 2.8 percent to 14,892.57. South Korea's Kospi gained 0.1 percent to 1,971.46. Benchmarks in Indonesia, Taiwan and mainland China also rose.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng spent the morning bobbing between slight gains and slight losses before falling nearly 0.1 percent to 22,656.15. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 tumbled 1.4 percent to 4,992.80. Benchmarks in the Philippines and New Zealand also fell.

The Nikkei's dramatic fall Thursday was attributed on the spike in the interest rate on the country's benchmark 10-year bond to above 1 percent for the first time in a year, which came after Fed meeting minutes showed some of its policy makers want the U.S. central bank to start scaling back its monetary stimulus.

The swing in Japanese bonds unnerved investors at a time when Japan's already overburdened government finances are vulnerable to rises in interest rates. The interest rate, or yield, later slipped back to about 0.9 percent.

The sell-off is a reminder of Japan's vulnerability as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tries to end two decades of stagnation with unprecedented monetary easing, increased government spending and reforms to make the world's No. 3 economy more competitive.

Mixed messages from the Federal Reserve about when it might start scaling back its bond-buying program also stirred investor anxiety.

The Fed is buying $85 billion worth of bonds every month as part of its stimulus program. That has kept interest rates low and encouraged investors to put money into stocks and other risky assets. If the Fed slows down its bond purchases, investors fear it could lead to an outpouring of money from stocks.

Benchmark oil for July delivery was down 4 cents to $94.20 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 3 cents to close at $94.25 per barrel on the Nymex on Thursday.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.2920 from $1.2932 late Thursday in New York. The dollar strengthened to 102.23 yen from 101.91 yen.


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