Asia stocks edge up as Syria worries diminish









BANGKOK — Asian stock markets posted modest gains Thursday as the risk of U.S. military intervention in Syria appeared to diminish.

Diplomatic efforts to get Syria to turn over its stockpile of chemical weapons went into high gear Wednesday, easing fears that the U.S. would launch an attack. Washington has threatened to retaliate against Syrian President Bashar Assad for allegedly using chemical weapons against civilians outside Damascus last month.

President Barack Obama contends that chemical attacks pose a potential threat to the global community and retaliation is necessary. But he has faced an uphill battle trying to convince congressional leaders and U.S. allies to go along.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 0.4 percent to 23,019.37. South Korea’s Kospi advanced 0.5 percent to 2,013.70. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.3 percent to 5,247.70. But Japan’s Nikkei 225 index fell 0.3 percent to 14,382.92. A firmer yen hurt export shares.

On Friday, investors will be closely monitoring U.S. retail sales data for August as they gear up for next week’s policy meeting of the Federal Reserve.

Over recent weeks, the markets have priced in the likelihood that the Fed will start to reduce its monetary stimulus at the meeting. The main question for most traders is how much the current $85 billion of monthly asset purchases will be reduced.

On Wall Street, stocks mostly rose Wednesday as investors continued to bet that a U.S.-Syria military conflict may not happen. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index posted its seventh gain in a row after starting the day with a loss. The Nasdaq composite posted a small loss. Both indexes were held back by a decline in shares of Apple and other tech companies.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.9 percent to close at 15,326.60. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 0.3 percent, to 1,689.13. The Nasdaq composite fell 0.1 percent, to 3,725.01.

Benchmark oil for October delivery rose 6 cents to $107.61 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 17 cents to close at $107.56 a barrel on the Nymex on Wednesday.

In currencies, the euro rose $1.3320 from $1.3312 late Wednesday. The dollar fell to 99.50 yen from 99.87 yen.


Syria woes drive stocks down

September 4, 2013 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

THE STOCK MARKET fell yesterday as leaders of the US Congress backed a military strike against Syria, a development which investors fear could disrupt the trading of oil.

The Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) lost 115.58 points or 1.90% to 5,968.33, while the broader all-share index fell 58.35 points or 1.57% to 3,663.80.

“Escalating external risks in Syria slid the PSEi below 6,000 as [yesterday] also marked the last day of the Chinese ghost month,” said Abbygayle M. Estrella, analyst at AB Capital Securities, Inc.
Lexter L. Azurin, research head at Unicapital Securities, Inc., added:

“The market dropped today on concerns over possible US military action against Syria.”

The rift between the United States and the Middle East nation could push fuel prices, he explained, a pressing concern for an oil importer such as the Philippines.

“When it comes to oil prices, our country is quite vulnerable since most of our oil consumption is imported and thus will affect the domestic economy, particularly on the consumption side,” Mr. Azurin said.

The stock market climbed earlier this week after US President Barack Obama delayed his decision on a military strike against Syria, seeking Congress’ approval instead.

But the market pulled back after Republican House Speaker John Boehner expressed support for the action. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor also pledged his support for action.

Nancy Pelosi, Democratic minority leader in the House of Representatives, said she believes Congress will support a resolution authorizing the use of US military force against Syria.

The US is leading other nations in a campaign against Syria after Bashar al-Assad’s government allegedly used chemical weapons last month to hit a rebel-held stronghold outside the capital of Damascus.

Major Asian stock markets ended mixed yesterday. Japan’s Nikkei added 75.43 points or 0.54% to 14,053.87; Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index dropped 68.36 points or 0.31% to 22,326.22; while the Shanghai Stock Exchange composite index gained 4.51 points or 0.21% to 2,127.62.

All sectoral indices felt the overall weakness of the local bourse yesterday, with holding firms leading the downtrend, plunging 122.73 points or 2.29% to 5,236.08.

Services dropped 35.60 points or 1.84% to 1,894.26; industrial slid 169.41 points or 1.80% to 9,242.10; property declined 35.36 points or 1.53% to 2,276.82; mining and oil went down 149.91 points or 1.10% to 13,521.98; while financials shed 15.99 points or 1.09% to 1,453.74.

The total value of trades fell to ₱6.01 billion yesterday from ₱5.15 billion on Tuesday.

Losers outnumbered gainers, 105-35, while 48 issues were unchanged.

A daily list of the 20 most actively traded stocks showed 18 issues lost, while two gained.

Leading the losers were SM Investments Corp.; Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co.; Ayala Corp.; Ayala Land, Inc.; and GT Capital Holdings, Inc.

Escalating geopolitical tensions abroad could again weigh on the market today, analysts said.

“We continue to monitor developments abroad especially with regards to the measures the US will take against Syria,” Mr. Azurin said.

“This poses a concern to markets not just locally but major markets as well,” he added.

“If the US decides to attack Syria, then global markets may take a hit…”
Ms. Estrella, for her part, said: “For [today], tensions in Syria still poses a negative bias for the PSEi.”

She pegged the market’s immediate support at 5,770 and the resistance at 6,100. — Cliff Harvey C. Venzon

Dollar slips, yen climbs amid Syrian conflict

POSTED ON 08/28/2013 9:49 AM  | UPDATED 08/28/2013 9:57 AM

18NEW YORK CITY, USA – The dollar fell Tuesday, August 27, against other major currencies while the yen jumped amid rising tensions over Syria.

Financial markets were in turmoil from growing expectations of imminent Western military action against Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians.

US forces readied to strike Syria as the West insisted its goal was not regime change but to punish President Bashar al-Assad’s government for attacking civilians with chemical weapons.

“The possibility of a military strike on the country is growing by the minute and investors are worried that it could destabilize the region,” said Kathy Lien of BK Asset Management.

The foreign exchange market was choppy, with the dollar losing ground against the euro late in the trading session.

Read: European stocks slip on rising Syrian crisis

Around 2100 GMT, the euro bought $1.3391, up slightly from $1.3369 at the same time Monday.

The Japanese yen benefited as investors rushed for shelter in the traditionally safe-haven currency from the geopolitical uncertainty.

The dollar fell to 97.01 yen from 98.51 yen late Monday, while the euro dropped to 129.88 yen from 131.68.

“Concerns over tension in Syria and potential for Fed tapering seem to be the main underlying themes driving the foreign exchange markets. The yen is higher, however, as money continues to flow out of emerging markets and into other currencies seen as safer places for investment,” said Zachary Griffiths at Wells Fargo Economics.

Griffiths pointed to bearish equity markets and predicted the greenback would likely gain as capital flows away from riskier assets.

The dollar fell to 0.9173 Swiss franc from 0.9230 franc late Monday.

The British pound slipped to $1.5542 from $1.5572. –

Bank of Japan leaves monetary easing scheme unchanged

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POSTED ON 08/08/2013 12:02 PM  | UPDATED 08/08/2013 12:10 PM

TOKYO, Japan – The Bank of Japan (BoJ) on Thursday, August 8 left its vast monetary easing program unchanged, as it issued an upbeat assessment of Tokyo’s efforts to counter growth-sapping deflation.

In a widely expected move, the central bank said its board voted unanimously to stand pat after wrapping up a two-day policy meeting, as investors keep a close eye on the US Federal Reserve amid growing speculation it would soon start tapering its huge stimulus program.

The BoJ, which unveiled its own gigantic bond-buying scheme in April, said the outlook for the world’s third-biggest economy was looking brighter, while early signs of rising prices were good news for its efforts to hit a 2% inflation target in as many years.

Many analysts have heaped doubt on the BoJ’s ambitious timeline given that Japan has been struggling with deflation for more than 15 years. The inflation target is a key part of an economy-boosting plan launched by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, dubbed “Abenomics”.

“Japan’s economy is starting to recover moderately,” the BoJ said Thursday, pointing to better times ahead for key export markets.

“Overseas economies as a whole are gradually heading toward a pick-up, although a lacklustre performance is partly seen… Inflation expectations appear to be rising as a whole.” –