BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stocks were mixed Tuesday after Fed chief Ben Bernanke said the central bank’s bond buying is providing crucial support for the U.S. economy, suggesting it will continue despite divisions with the Fed.
The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo, meanwhile, hit a nine-month intraday high before paring gains slightly as investors scooped up shares amid a weaker yen and major stimulus measures from the new government to help Japan’s struggling economy. The Nikkei rose 0.7 percent to 10,885.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.2 percent to 4,708.90. South Korea’s Kospi fell 0.8 percent to 1,991.64. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 0.3 percent to 23,335.84.
“It’s just profit-taking because the index is already overbought and many stocks are overbought,” said Kwong Man Bun, chief operating officer at KGI Securities in Hong Kong.
Elsewhere, benchmarks in Indonesia, mainland China, New Zealand, the Philippines and Thailand rose while Singapore and Taiwan fell.
In a speech in the U.S. on Monday, Bernanke said the U.S. Federal Reserve’s bond-buying program, dubbed quantitative easing, was providing key support for the economy and made no mention of winding the program down, even though some Fed officials recently said they favor doing that.
The U.S. central bank has been buying $85 billion a month in Treasurys and mortgage bonds to try to keep borrowing costs low and encourage more spending.
Analysts at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong said in an email commentary that markets found some relief in Bernanke’s speech as it did not repeat the views of some Fed officials in hinting at an early ending of quantitative easing.
This week, investors will assess a slew of data for signs of growth in the U.S. and China, the world’s two largest economies. Retail sales in the U.S. for December are due later Tuesday, as are quarterly earnings from big U.S. banks including JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America.
Investors will be scrutinizing revenues to assess whether the drawn-out “fiscal cliff” debate had an impact on consumer spending. A series of tax hikes and spending cuts, due to come into effect Jan. 1, were only averted by a last-minute deal.
On Friday, China will issue fourth-quarter growth data for 2012 as well as GDP growth for the year. Factory output, investment and retail sales will also be released. China reported last week a rise in exports and imports, a sign of higher demand both inside and outside the country.
Among individual stocks, Australian surf-wear maker Billabong soared 15.4 percent after receiving its sixth takeover bid in less than six months. Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. fell 3.2 percent following reports that demand for Apple Inc.’s iPhone may be weaker than expected. The company is a leading maker of iPhones.
On Wall Street, Apple pulled down the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, which fell 0.1 percent to 1,470.68. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.1 percent to 13,507.32. The Nasdaq composite index fell 0.3 percent to 3,117.50.
Benchmark oil for February delivery was down 23 cents to $93.92 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 58 cents to finish at $94.15 per barrel on the Nymex on Monday.
In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3355 from $1.3378 late Monday in New York. The dollar fell to 89.02 yen from 89.41 yen.
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