Asian stock markets swung between gains and losses before ending on a mixed note Friday, as concerns pertaining to a Greek euro exit lingered despite Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti's speculation that Greece would remain in the currency bloc.
A public-opinion poll showed Thursday that Greece's radical-left Syriza party is maintaining its poll lead ahead of the country's elections on June 17, rekindling worries about Greece's uncertain political and currency future.
Media reports that some of China's biggest banks are set to miss their 2012 lending targets for the first time in at least seven years also weighed on sentiment initially before stocks and commodities recovered early losses.
Risk sentiment improved somewhat,as investors digested comments from Italian prime minister that more EU states are in favor of eurobonds and he can help Germany accept the proposal for common sovereign bonds for the greater common good.
Japanese shares moved in a narrow range before closing on a mixed note ahead of a slew of U.S. economic reports, including a manufacturing survey and non-farm payroll numbers for May, due next week. The Nikkei average posted a modest 0.2 percent gain, while the broader Topix index of all First Section issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange finished marginally lower.
Japan Tobacco jumped 5.2 percent following the company's announcement yesterday that it would buy Belgian tobacco product maker Gryson NV for EUR475 million. Drugmaker Takeda Pharmaceuticals rose 2.3 percent and telecom firm KDDI added 1.1 percent on defensive buying. Canon snapped a two-session losing streak to end up over 2 percent, heavyweight Fast Retailing gained 2.4 percent and convenience store operator Seven & i Holdings added 2.4 percent.
Realtors were among the strong performers, with Mitsui Fudosan gaining 1.8 percent, on a Wall Street Journal report that Goldman Sachs plans to launch a private real-estate investment trust in Japan this summer. Mitsubishi Estate and Sumitomo Realty & Development rose 1-2 percent.
However, tech-shares lost ground, with Nikon, Tokyo Electron and Advantest falling 1-5 percent after a downturn among their peers dragged the Nasdaq index lower overnight. Sony slumped 4.5 percent as it announced ending its joint venture with Sharp for producing and selling liquid crystal displays for television sets. Shares of Sharp Corp. ended down a percent.
China's Shanghai Composite index fell 0.7 percent to a six-week low on concerns bank lending is falling, adding pressure on the government to launch more aggressive measures in order to prevent a hard landing. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index closed up 0.3 percent.
Australian stocks fell notably to end the week at their lowest level in six months, with financials losing heavily on lingering concerns over Europe's sovereign debt problems. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.7 percent and the broader All Ordinaries index shed 0.6 percent.
Westpac led the losses in the banking sector, falling 1.3 percent, while ANZ, NAB and Commonwealth ended down between 0.4 percent and 1.2 percent. Investment bank Macquarie Group lost 1.2 percent and insurer QBE edged down 0.2 percent.
Among miners, Rio Tinto ended 0.8 percent lower after the company said it is maintaining its plan to substantially expand its iron ore business over the coming years despite talk of China's slowing economy. BHP Billiton fell 1.2 percent, smaller rival Fortescue tumbled 3.8 percent and gold miner Newcrest eased 0.6 percent.
Wesfarmers, the owner of Coles supermarkets, dropped 2.2 percent on reports that Coles' chief executive Ian McLeod is facing a potential pay cut. Rival Woolworth declined 0.8 percent and JB Hi-Fi slipped 0.4 percent, while David Jones climbed 3.2 percent and Harvey Norman added a percent. Fairfax fell 2.3 percent after Gina Rinehart's criticized the company for not giving her a seat on its board of directors.
Seoul shares rose modestly, snapping a two week-losing streak, on fresh hopes of Europe action after Italy's technocratic PM said Germany can be persuaded on euro-area bonds. The benchmark Kospi average gained half a percent, with battered petrochemical shares and steelmakers outperforming on bargain hunting after Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao reiterated the government's intention to make some well-timed and targeted adjustments to its macroeconomic policies in a bid to ensure steady growth.
LG Chem and SK Chemicals soared about 5 percent each, while Posco rose 0..7 percent and Hyundai Steel climbed 3.3 percent. LG Display lost 2.7 percent after media reports citing industry sources said Sony will likely become part of Apple's supply team for the next Apple iPhone.
New Zealand shares fell, dragged down by Fisher & Paykel Healthcare after the medical device manufacturer and exporter reported shrinking margins because of the elevated kiwi dollar. Shares of the company plunged 5.8 percent, while the benchmark NZX-50 index shed 0.3 percent. Other exporters, including Nuplex and Rakon also retreated, closing down 1.3 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively.
Tower added 1.2 percent after the insurance group reported an 83 percent jump in first-half profit, reflecting a better performance across all its businesses units after the negative impact of the Christchurch earthquakes. Carpet maker Cavalier rose 3.4 percent, investment company Pyne Gould Corp rallied 3.4 percent and Heartland New Zealand, the would-be bank, jumped 4.2 percent.
Elsewhere, India's benchmark Sensex was little changed and Malaysia's KLSE Composite was up 0.2 percent, but Indonesia's Jakarta Composite fell over 2 percent, Singapore's Straits Times edged down 0.2 percent and the Taiwan Weighed average lost 0.8 percent.
U.S. stocks saw a late-session reversal overnight, as comments from the Italian prime minister on joint European bonds to support funding for Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy outweighed some uninspiring U.S. economic data, including a report from the Commerce Department showing a drop by a key indicator of business spending.
A separate report from the Labor Department showed a modest decrease in initial jobless claims in the week ended May 19th. The tech-heavy Nasdaq ended down 0.4 percent, while the Dow rose 0.3 percent and the S&P 500 added 0.1 percent.
by RTT Staff Writer
For comments and feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org