Asian markets mixed, Tokyo up on election result
HONG KONG - Asian markets began Monday, December 17, mixed on concerns at the lack of progress in US talks aimed at averting the fiscal cliff, while Japanese shares soared after a big election win for the conservative opposition.
The yen tumbled to a year-and-a-half low against the dollar and multi-month lows versus the euro, with investors expecting more central bank easing by Japan's incoming government.
Tokyo climbed 1.45 percent, Hong Kong was flat, Sydney fell 0.21 percent, Seoul shed 0.11 percent and Shanghai was up 0.35 percent.
The Liberal Democratic Party was expected to oust the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, and its leader Shinzo Abe has vowed to press for a more aggressive economic policy to kickstart the economy.
"The election results were very much in line with market expectations. A relief rally is in order, helped by the stronger dollar," SMBC Nikko Securities general manager of equities Hiroichi Nishi told Dow Jones Newswires.
"Next, investors will be eager to see the kinds of concrete policy measures that the new government proposes."
The dollar soared to 84.30 yen in early Tokyo trade, its highest since April last year, before easing back to 84.07 yen, still well up from 83.52 yen in New York on Friday.
The euro also hit 111.10 yen, its highest since April this year, but slipped back to 110.61, compared with from 109.94 yen in New York Friday.
Nervousness is beginning to set in over US lawmakers' inability to come up with an agreement to avoid the huge tax hikes and spending cuts due to take effect next month, which are expected to tip the country into recession.
However, The Washington Post said Sunday that Republican House Speaker John Boehner had offered to take the federal debt limit off the table for a year in a bid to revive talks. The paper said the offer was made on Friday.
If confirmed, it would mark a major concession in negotiations to strike a deal and was also said to include a proposal to raise tax rates for millionaires that would bring $460 billion in revenue over the next decade -- about half of President Barack Obama's request.
On Wall Street Friday the Dow lost 0.27 percent, the S&P 500 fell 0.41 percent and the Nasdaq shed 0.70 percent.
Oil prices rose in Asia Monday, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in January rising 19 cents to $86.92 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for February delivery advancing nine cents to $108.27.
Gold was at $1,692.10 at 0200 GMT compared with $1,696.80 late Friday. - Agence France-Presse