HONG KONG (AFP) – Asian stock markets were mixed Friday, with Tokyo’s main index rising after Japanese traders shrugged off data showing inflation slowing in December and household spending falling.
Tokyo’s gains were in line with a broad rally on Wall Street the day before, after the Federal Reserve signalled that growth and jobs in the world’s top economy remained robust and a raft of generally solid US corporate earnings.
The benchmark Nikkei-225 index on the Tokyo Stock Exchange rose 0.39 per cent, or 68.17 points, to 17,674.39 at the close, with traders buoyed by a weaker yen, which boosts Japanese exporters.
The Shanghai Composite index fell 1.10 per cent in the afternoon in Asia while Hong Kong traded flat. Sydney gained 18.82 points, or 0.34 per cent, to close at 5,588.3 while Seoul finished flat, closing down 1.76 points at 1,949.26.
Japanese government data released Friday showed that consumer inflation in the world’s third largest economy slowed for a fifth month in December to 2.5 per cent year-on-year, down from 2.7 per cent in November, on the back of plummeting oil prices and weaker consumer spending.
Adjusted for a sales tax increase, the rate rose just 0.5 per cent, well short of the Bank of Japan’s 2.0 per cent inflation goal.
However, analysts said that while driving down prices, lower energy costs could boost economic growth in Japan, a net importer of oil.
“There is growing confidence in the US economy… Employment has gotten better and the effects from cheaper oil have yet to come,” Shigetoshi Kamata, general manager of the research department at Tachibana Securities in Tokyo told Bloomberg News.
“Investors feel bullish for Japanese stocks today.”
Japan’s industrial output rebounded with a 1.0 per cent increase on-month in December, official data showed, reversing a surprise fall in November but missing expectations of a sharper rise. Japanese household spending fell 3.4 per cent from a year ago, as a sales tax hike weighed on shoppers.
Benchmark US indices rallied on Thursday after two days of losses, following generally positive corporate earnings including from Ford Motor and Amazon.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.31 per cent, the broad-based S&P 500 added 0.95 per cent, and the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index gained 0.98 per cent.
Oil prices were mixed in Asian trade – a day after they plunged to their lowest level in nearly six years, sparking deflationary fears. US oil stockpiles are at a record high.
US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for March delivery was up 12 cents at $44.65 a barrel in afternoon Asian trade, after a volatile session the day before that saw the contract plunge below $44 for the first time since March 2009.
Brent crude for March was down 13 cents at $49.00 a barrel.
The dollar edged down against a basket of major currencies as traders adjusted their positions ahead of fourth-quarter US gross domestic product (GDP) figures, due later Friday.
The greenback slipped to 117.87 yen, down from 118.34 yen in New York.
The euro strengthened to $1.1337 from $1.1317, while it weakened to 133.63 yen from 133.93 yen.
Gold fetched $1,261.14 an ounce, down from $1,265.97 on Thursday.