China stocks are top performers in 2014, oil depressed
SYDNEY: Asian markets were ending 2014 on a cautionary note on Wednesday as worries about Greece’s future in the euro zone served as an excuse to take profits on crowded trades, though Chinese stocks seemed destined for their best year in five.
The US dollar ran into selling on its recent gains, while the euro got no respite as a host of European bonds yields scored all-time viagra natural alternative lows after a shockingly sharp fall in Spanish inflation.
Trade was thinned by holidays in Japan, Thailand, South Korea and the Philippines, while many markets in Europe are either shut or finish early on Wednesday.
Among the scraps of news in Asia was a final measure of December Chinese manufacturing activity from HSBC but it barely caused a ripple by coming in at 49.6, compared to the preliminary reading of 49.5.
Of the markets open, Australia and Singapore were flat for the day. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was ending the year almost exactly where it started.
The Nikkei fared better with a rise of 7.1% for 2104, thanks chiefly to the Bank of Japan’s extraordinary campaign of asset-buying, which lowered the yen while fattening exporters’ profit margins.
The stand-out global performer was China, where the CSI300 index of the largest listed companies in Shanghai and Shenzhen looked set to end 2014 with gains near 50%, the biggest among the world’s major market.
Almost all of China’s rise came in the last couple of months, as hopes for more aggressive policy stimulus boosted banks and brokers.
Featuring on Wednesday were hefty gains for China’s biggest train makers, China CNR and CSR Corp , after the two firms confirmed a US$26bil merger.
Asia’s worst performer in 2014 was South Korea, where the Kospi lost 4.8% for the year.
On Wall Street, the S&P 500 eased 0.49% on Tuesday but was still on track for a third straight year of double-digit returns. The Dow fell 0.31%, while the Nasdaq lost 0.61%.
In currencies, the dollar eased on the safe haven yen to stand at 119.41 from Tuesday’s peak of 120.69.
The euro was undermined by sliding European yields amid intense speculation the European Central Bank will have to start buying government bonds to avert deflation.
The single currency was stuck at US$1.2162 having touched a 29-month trough of US$1.2123.
German yields hit a new record low on Tuesday, ending 2014 with their biggest annual fall in six years, while yields in Italy and Spain also reached historic lows.
Data out on Tuesday showed Spanish consumer prices fell in December at their fastest rate since July 2009, largely as a result of cheaper oil.
The steep decline made it more likely that inflation for the entire euro zone while slip into negative territory when the data are released on Jan 7, far below the ECB’s target of just under 2%. – Reuters
There was little sign as yet of an end to oil’s stunning decline after it hit lows last seen in May 2009. Brent was down 64 cents at US$57.26 on Wednesday, leaving it down 48% for the year, while US crude lost 47 cents to US$53.65 a barrel. – Reuters
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