Asia Stocks Muted As Oil Prices Keep Mood Cautious

By Salon Staff
February 28, 2012 8:09AM (UTC)
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BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets mostly posted muted gains Tuesday as high oil prices and Europe's lingering debt problems kept investor enthusiasm in check.

The Nikkei 225 index in Tokyo fell 0.6 percent to 9,576.40, a day after struggling computer chipmaker Elpida Memory Inc. filed for bankruptcy — the largest ever for a Japanese manufacturer.


The company, which is the only chipmaker in Japan to specialize in DRAM chips used in mobile phones and computers, has been beset by plummeting prices, fierce competition and flooding in Thailand last year that disrupted production.

Elsewhere, markets took comfort from U.S. data that showed a slowly improving housing market. The National Association of Realtors said its index of sales agreements rose 2 percent last month to a reading of 97, the highest since April 2010. A reading of 100 is considered healthy.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 0.5 percent to 21,333.01 while South Korea's Kospi added 0.2 percent to 1,995.94. Australia's S&P ASX/200 rose marginally to 4,268.70.


Benchmarks in Singapore and New Zealand also rose while the Shanghai Composite Index was up 0.1 percent at 2,449.13.

Analysts at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong said stock markets are cautious even though U.S. data this week are expected to show improving consumer confidence and economic conditions.

"A plethora of US and eurozone data releases, largely focussed on sentiment surveys will maintain a positive message of recovery today but risk assets have already priced in a lot of good news," the bank said in an email.


The European debt crisis is still a lingering concern. Finance ministers from the world's 20 leading economies said that they would not add money to the International Monetary Fund until the European Union puts up more money to stave off its debt crisis.

Meanwhile, a standoff between the West and Iran over its nuclear program has kept oil prices around nine-month highs.


The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.01 percent to close at 12,981.51 on Monday. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 0.1 percent to 1,367.59. The Nasdaq composite gained 0.1 percent to 2,966.16.

The Dow has broken through 13,000 several times last week but hasn't closed above that level since May 19, 2008, four months before the fall of Lehman Brothers investment bank and the worst of the financial crisis.

Benchmark oil for April delivery was down 58 cents to $107.98 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell by $1.21 to $108.56 per barrel in New York on Monday.


In currency trading, the euro rose to $1.3411 from $1.3398 late Monday in New York. The dollar fell to 80.24 yen from 80.49 yen.

Salon Staff

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