Asian markets mostly up but investors remain wary

HONG KONG (AFP) – Asian markets mostly rose yesterday, tracking another rally in New York after last week’s battering, but early gains were tempered and Tokyo ended down on lingering uncertainty and worries about further turmoil.

While some stability has returned to trading floors, investors are keeping a nervous eye on the release this week of key US inflation data, which many fear could spark another round of blood-letting.

Global markets have been sent into spasms this month as the yield on US Treasury bills has risen to four-year highs, with Federal Reserve interest rates expected to be hiked further this year owing to a purring economy and rising wages.

There are also warnings that the yield on US T-bills could spike to 3.5 per cent, according to Bloomberg News, which would mark a level not seen since 2010.

But Asian traders were broadly optimistic yesterday, though they pared morning gains.

A currency trader watches monitors at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul, South Korea. – AP

Hong Kong rose 1.3 per cent and Shanghai finished one percent higher as dealers in China begin to wind down ahead of the long Lunar New Year break.

Sydney climbed 0.6 per cent, Singapore jumped more than one per cent and Seoul was up 0.4 per cent.

Jakarta, Manila, Bangkok and Wellington were also well up.

In early European trade, London was 0.2 per cent higher, Paris added 0.1 per cent and Frankfurt was flat.

Dealers were given a positive cue from Wall Street and Europe, where all major indexes finished more than one per cent higher.

Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trading at OANDA, said, “Equity markets have begun the week on a somewhat positive note picking up from Friday’s rebound as bargain hunters have returned on the first sign of stability.

“The market is trying to find a positive equilibrium, and if we can get through this week’s critical US (inflation data) relatively unscathed, then it would most certainly look as if last week was little more than a corrective episode rather than the commencement of a bear market.”

However, there is concern that another strong reading could spark more frenzied selling.

And Ronald Wan, chief executive at Partners Capital in Hong Kong, told Bloomberg News the recent record highs witnessed in many cities would not be seen again for a while.

“People didn’t take the US stocks decline seriously in the beginning,” he said. “Global equities were at their peaks and people also ignored whether the elevated level” was supported enough by the economy.