HONG KONG (AFP) – Asian stock markets ended mostly higher Wednesday after reversing earlier losses, although dealers remained nervous following a heavy sell-off in New York sparked by poor earnings reports.
Traders are also keeping an eye on Europe as Greece’s new anti-austerity government prepares to face off with its international creditors over its bailout.
Tokyo gained 0.15 per cent, or 27.43 points, to 17,795.73, Sydney added 0.10 per cent, or 5.56 points, to close at 5,552.78 and Seoul rose 0.47 per cent, or 9.18 points, to 1,961.58.
Hong Kong shares ended up 0.22 per cent or 54.53 points at 24,861.81. But Shanghai closed 1.41 per cent, or 47.22 points, lower at 3,305.74 on liquidity fears after some banks tightened borrowing requirements for investors.
Investors – already nervous due to political uncertainty in Greece, plunging oil prices and weak world economic growth – ran for cover in US trade Tuesday in response to negative reports from some of the world’s biggest firms.
Caterpillar, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble and mining giant Freeport-McMoRan all announced weak earnings or negative outlooks, sending their share prices plunging.
That sent Wall Street’s three main indexes tumbling, with the Dow losing 1.65 per cent, the S&P 500 off 1.34 per cent and the Nasdaq shedding 1.89 per cent.
Adding to the negative sentiment was news that US durable goods orders unexpectedly tumbled 3.4 per cent in December, reminding investors that the US economy still has weak spots, especially its exposure to the global economic slowdown.
A Conference Board report, showing that US consumer confidence jumped in January to its highest level in more than seven years, was unable to lift the mood.
After US markets closed, Apple announced its quarterly profit rocketed to a corporate record of $18 billion at the end of last year on booming sales of big-screen iPhone models, especially in China.
Asian shares staged a rebound as Wednesday wound on, while the dollar picked up after taking a hit in New York.
The troubled euro – which hit a more than 11-year low below $1.10 Monday – jumped above $1.14 at one point in US trade Tuesday before easing slightly to $1.1380 by the end of the day.
In afternoon trade Wednesday the single currency retreated to $1.1345.
The dollar was at 118.05 yen Wednesday in Tokyo, up from 117.90 yen in New York, where at one point it sank to 117.40 yen.
The Singapore dollar sank after the city-state’s central bank eased monetary policy in the face of falling consumer prices and weak economic growth. The US dollar surged to S$1.3569 at one stage, its highest since August 2010 and well up from Sg$1.3441 on Tuesday.
The euro remains in focus as the Greece’s new leftist Syriza leadership prepares for a standoff with the European Union and International Monetary Fund.
The party won weekend elections after campaigning to renegotiate the country’s vast bailout that came with painful terms including spending cuts and high taxes.
Both sides appear ready to fight, with EU officials warning Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras not to seek any debt write-off or other radical change to the rescue programme.
“If the continuation of the programme of aid for Greece is called into question… Greek banks would lose access to central bank funds,” Joachim Nagel, a member of the Bundesbank’s executive board, warned in a Handelsblatt interview.
On oil markets the two main contracts resumed their downtrend after rising on Tuesday in reaction to the weaker dollar.
US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for March delivery slipped 66 cents to $45.57. The contract rose $1.08 Tuesday.
Brent North Sea crude – which jumped $1.44 in the previous session – shed 57 cents to $49.03.
Gold fetched $1,288.92 an ounce, against $1,280.38 late Tuesday.