Asia stocks mixed, Japan's Nikkei up as yen falls

Last Updated: Mon, Feb 18, 2013 03:15 hrs

Japan's benchmark stock index jumped Monday after Group of 20 finance officials avoided directly criticizing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's new government for trying to force down the yen. Other Asian stock markets were mixed.

Currency policy was high on the agenda at the weekend meeting in Moscow of finance ministers and central bankers from the world's 20 biggest advanced and emerging economies. Japan's currency was of particular interest because Abe has repeatedly said that he wants a cheaper yen to help manufacturers compete. Japanese exporters have long been unhappy with the yen's rise due to its status as a safe haven.

The Nikkei 225 index in Tokyo surged 2.3 percent to 11,425.44. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.2 percent to 23,401.21. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.5 percent to 5,060.60. South Korea's Kospi dropped 0.2 percent at 1,977.22. Mainland Chinese shares opened higher after a weeklong break for Lunar New Year.

Last week, the yen fell to a near three-year low against the dollar and the euro. The yen has been steadily declining since December because of expectations that Japan's central bank would take action resulting in a weakening of the yen.

Since the start of the financial crisis, central banks around the world have been trying to stimulate their economies by keeping interest rates extremely low to encourage consumers and businesses to borrow and spend. One way central banks drive down rates is to use their power to print money to buy up large quantities of bonds.

Several developing economies have recently criticized the U.S. program of quantitative easing for pushing up the value of their currencies. By buying up bonds, the U.S. Federal Reserve has also increased the amount of money in circulation. This has had the side-effect of driving down the value of the U.S. dollar relative to others.

Wall Street stocks barely budged Friday, ahead of the G20 meeting. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.1 percent to 13,981.76. The S&P 500 index fell 0.1 percent to 1,519.79. The Nasdaq composite fell 0.2 percent to 3,192.03. Stock markets in the U.S. are closed for the Presidents Day holiday on Monday.

Benchmark oil for March delivery was down 23 cents to $95.63 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.45 to close at $95.86 a barrel on the Nymex on Friday.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3341 from $1.3355 late Friday in New York. The dollar rose to 94.12 yen from 93.40 yen.


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