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March 17, 2011    

Asian equities mostly lower as Europe, US see gains

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by Elaine Frei
Asian equities mostly lower as Europe, US see gains

Asian equities markets were mostly lower Thursday as investors remain uncertain about conditions in Japan, especially around the condition of the damaged Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power facility, although earlier declines were pared back on hopes that an emergency meeting of finance ministers from the G-7 nations will bring a solution to the strengthening yen and soothe investor nerves.

The Nikkei 225 was down 1.44 percent to 8,962.67 in Tokyo after dropping 5 percent earlier, while Tokyo’s Topix index was down 0.84 percent to 810.8, while the Mothers market managed to add 1.71 percent to 406.68.

Tokyo Electric Power Co (TYO: 9501) dropped another 13 percent, bringing its declines this week to 62 percent, and insurers and exporters, including carmakers were all lower.

Markets in Australia were also lower, with the S&P/ASX200 down 0.06 percent to 4,555.3 while the Sydney Ordinaries dropped 0.12 percent to 4,638.4, while Taiwan’s Taiex fell 0.5 percent to 8,282.69, the Straits Times Index was down 0.95 percent to 2,942.88 in Singapore, India’s Sensex and the Shanghai Composite were each 1.14 percent lower, to 18,149.9 and 2,897.3 respectively, and the Hang Seng dropped 1.83 percent to 22,284.4 in Hong Kong.

South Korea’s Kospi managed to added 0.05 percent to 1,959.03.

European and US markets saw gains, helped by hopes for the emergency G-7 meeting and by new data from the US Labor Department showing that first-time claims for unemployment benefits were down last week.

The FTSE 100 added 1.75 percent to 5,696.11 in London, while the FTSE 250 was up 1.84 percent to 11,236.4, with most banks, miners and energy companies and insurers seeing gains, while homebuilders gained after a roofing and insulation specialist issued a positive report on trading.

.The FTSE Eurofirst 300 was up 1.77 percent to 1,086.2 while the Dax added 2.2 percent to 6,656.88, the IBEX was 2.31 percent higher to 10,325.6 and the CAC-40 gained 2.43 percent to 3,786.21.

Wall Street saw gains in afternoon trade in New York, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 0.85 percent to 11,711.9 at just before 2 p.m. in New York, while at the same time the S&P 500 had added 0.91 percent to 1,268.31 and the Nasdaq Composite was 0.82 percent higher to 2,638.19.

Crude oil prices were higher in New York and London as West Texas Intermediate and Brent crude were both more than $3 per gallon higher at last report.

Metals prices were mixed as gold and copper advanced, with copper up 15 cents per pound at last report, while silver prices were down slightly.

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