Markets temper enthusiasm after Japan stimulus

Last Updated: Fri, Jan 11, 2013 17:30 hrs

World markets see-sawed Friday between hope and concern for the world economy, as investors weighed a massive spending package meant to reinvigorate Japan's economy against evidence that inflation in China was rising.

Japan's Nikkei stock index soared after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced an anti-recession stimulus package of more than 20 trillion yen ($224 billion) that is intended to add 2 percentage points to Japan's growth.

The news also lifted other markets, but only briefly. Many investors in Europe were tempering their enthusiasm as concern remains about the state of the world economy.

New data showed Friday that price increases are accelerating in China, the world's second-largest economy. The inflation rate rose to 2.5 percent in December from 2 percent the previous month, due partly to a jump in food prices.

"The rise is disappointing as traders were hoping that policy officials may introduce new measures to help stimulate the Chinese economy," said Shavaz Dhalla, a trader with Spreadex. "Cleary rising prices could act as a barrier for officials as there is now the fear that more stimulus measures could cause the current inflation figures to rocket."

European countries are also facing their own uphill battle to restore economic growth. The economy of the 17 European Union nations that use the euro is in recession, and unemployment is soaring across the region.

Still, analysts said that some investors were taking heart from falling borrowing costs for Italy and Spain, which held successful bond auctions this week. Soaring borrowing costs have been at the heart of Europe's crisis, and any relief there would give governments time to make important reforms while also being able to fund themselves without a bailout.

"The falling bond yields of European countries like Spain and Italy are leading to a shift in sentiment; the wheel has gone full circle with eurozone news now pushing markets higher while it is the far east that is holding us back from new highs," said David Madden, a market analyst with IG.

In France, the CAC-40 edged up 0.1 percent to close at 3,705, while Germany's DAX rose the same rate to 7,716. The FTSE index of leading British shares moved up 0.3 percent at 6,122.

Wall Street struggled to find a direction. By midday, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 0.1 percent to 13,483, while the broader Standard & Poor's index dropped 0.1 percent to 1,471.

Earlier in the day, the Nikkei closed 1.4 percent higher at 10,801.57.

But not all Asian markets rallied, hemmed in by concerns about inflation in China. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.4 percent to 23,264.07. South Korea's Kospi lost 0.5 percent to 1,996.67. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.3 percent to 4,709.50. Benchmarks in Singapore and mainland China also fell while those in the Philippines and New Zealand rose.

Amid persistent concerns about the health of the world economy, energy prices fell.

Benchmark oil for February delivery was down 64 cents to $93.18 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Still, the euro was holding its own, rising 0.7 percent to $1.3354 after the European Central Bank's decision Thursday to leave its interest rate at the record low of 0.75 percent. In a press conference, ECB President Mario Draghi said the eurozone economy should start to grow again later this year.


Pamela Sampson contributed to this report from Bangkok.

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