HONG KONG: Asian markets were mixed in limited trade Wednesday as shareholders remained cautious on the final day of the year, whereas worries about Greece’s political slump reserved the dollar and euro under pressure versus the yen.
There was little reaction to confirmation from HSBC that its index of China’s manufacturing activity had contracted in December.
Hong Kong rose 0.44 percent, or 103.94 points, to 23,605.04 — helping the Hang Seng Index to top off a turbulent year with a gain of 1.28 percent.
Sydney slipped 0.10 percent, or 5.6 points, to close at 5,411.0, ending 2014 with a loss of 1.10 percent, while Wellington shed 0.16 percent, or 8.91 points, to 5,568.28 — marking a surge of 17.55 percent over the year.
In afternoon trade Shanghai — the best regional performer by far this year — was up 0.68 percent and more than 50 percent higher over 12 months. Taipei was flat in late trade and Singapore edged up 0.12 percent.
Tokyo, Jakarta, Manila, Seoul and Bangkok were closed for public holidays.
Wall Street and Europe provided a negative lead as Greece’s political turmoil returned to centre stage after lawmakers failed to elect a new president, leading the government to call a snap election for next month.
Markets fear the anti-austerity, far-left Syriza party could win the polls and roll back measures required under the IMF-EU bailout of the country, in turn further weakening the eurozone economy.
On Tuesday Prime Minister Antonis Samaras turned up the pressure by declaring a win for Syriza could lead to Greece leaving the eurozone.
“This struggle will determine whether Greece stays in Europe,” Samaras said, as he asked the outgoing president to dissolve parliament ahead of an election set for January 25.
The turmoil has rattled markets, pushing the euro — already suffering because of the eurozone’s limp economy — down against the dollar and yen as traders looked for safer investments.
However in Asian trade the single currency edged up slightly to $1.2160 from $1.2154 in New York. It was also at 145.25 yen against 145.20 yen in US trade and 146.15 yen in Asia earlier Tuesday.
The greenback was also lower against the yen on risk aversion. It bought 119.44 yen in Asia compared with 119.45 yen and 120.42 yen earlier Tuesday in Asia.
US and European shares also slipped. The Dow fell 0.31 percent, the S&P 500 dropped 0.49 percent and the Nasdaq slipped 0.61 percent. London’s FTSE 100 sank 1.36 percent, Frankfurt’s DAX 30 shed 1.22 percent and the CAC 40 in Paris dropped 1.68 percent.
Oil prices edged lower as dealers awaited the latest US supply report to get a picture of demand in the world’s biggest economy. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for February delivery fell 38 cents to $53.74 while Brent crude for February eased 49 cents to $57.41 in mid-morning trade.
Gold was at $1,201.76 an ounce, compared with $1,186.51 Tuesday.