Asian stocks mixed despite negative leads

<p>Asian stocks were mixed but mostly lower, driving the benchmark regional index down for the seventh time in eight days. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index […]</p>

Asian stocks were mixed but mostly lower, driving the benchmark regional index down for the seventh time in eight days. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index dropped 0.8% to 121.81 as of in early afternoon Tokyo trading, as the cost of protecting the government debt of Greece, Italy, Spain and France rose. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average fell 0.8%, even as a report showed the nation’s machinery orders rose for a second month. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index dropped 1.5%. Australia’s S&P/ASX200 finished flat after reversing earlier losses.

In economic news, Australia’s jobless rate unexpectedly rose to an eight-month high in July as hiring stalled. Unemployment jumped to 5.1% in July from 4.9% a month earlier, the first increase since October, the statistics bureau said in Sydney today. The number of full-time jobs declined by 22,200 in July, and part-time employment rose by 22,100, today’s report showed. Australia’s participation rate, which measures the labor force as a percentage of the population over 15 years old, held at 65.6% in July.

In corporate news, Korea’s Gas Corp which is the world’s largest importer of LNG booked a 29.1 billion won profit in the second quarter, compared with a 10.1 billion loss a year earlier. In Australia, Telecommunications giant Telstra booked a small than expected decline in earnings, sending shares up 5.7%. Telstra is committed to pay a final 14cps fully franked dividend and another 28cps next year which was enough to see the shareprice buck the global market trend and open higher. Meanwhile Australian retailers continue to struggle with department store operator David Jones again hosing down market expectations. CEO Paul Zahra said he sees no improvement in the first few months of 2012 trading at all.

In regional currency movements, the Yuan strengthened beyond 6.4 per dollar for the first time in 17 years, supported by the Federal Reserve’s pledge to keep interest rates at a record low and signs China will use currency gains to help rein in inflation. The currency rose 0.36% to 6.3948 per dollar as in early afternoon Shanghai time. Yen gains were capped – albeit above the BOJ’s comfort levels – after Japanese Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda said the currency’s movements have continued to be one-sided even after the government intervened on August 4.

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