Bernanke comments do little for Asian markets

<p>Asian stocks dropped, dragging the regional benchmark index to its lowest level in two weeks as Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke gave no solid news of […]</p>

Asian stocks dropped, dragging the regional benchmark index to its lowest level in two weeks as Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke gave no solid news of a new round of economic stimulus even as the recovery slows. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index fell 0.3% to 133.27 as of 10.34am in late morning trade, erasing gains of as much as 0.2% and heading for its lowest close since May 25. About two stocks dropped for each that rose in the gauge.

At noon Sydney time, Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average fell 0.3%. South Korea’s Kospi Index lost 0.8%, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index declined 0.7% and New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index gained 0.5%. In corporate news, LG Electronics – the world’s third-biggest maker of mobile phones -  dropped 1.5% in Seoul. Nissan Motor, the Japanese carmaker that gets about 34% of its sales from North America, slipped 1.5%.

Tokyo Electric Power, owner of the crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power station, slumped 5.1%, heading for a record low after the Nikkei newspaper reported that all Japan’s nuclear reactors may be idled. Declines in Singapore’s Straits Times Index were led by Jardine Matheson, Oversea-Chinese Banking and Dbs Group Holdings. About 67.43 million shares changed hands in Singapore. Wilmar International Ltd, which firmed 13 cps to S$5.43, was the most active stock by value in Singapore.

In currencies, the yen rose to a one-month high against the dollar on speculation the Federal Reserve will maintain stimulus to support economic growth and as Asian stocks fell, boosting demand for Japan’s currency as a refuge. The yen advanced to 79.94 per dollar in late morning trade from 80.09 in New York yesterday, after earlier touching 79.85, the strongest since May 5. It rose to 117.21 per euro from 117.67. The euro declined to $1.4664 from $1.4691 yesterday, when it reached $1.4697, the highest since May 5. The Australian dollar was little changed after Australian home-loan approvals rose more than estimated. Australia said April home loans rose 4.8% month-on-month vs estimated 2.8%; prior revised -1.1%. Jobs data to be released tomorrow should provide a good reading of economic activity over the past month.

Coal shipments from Australia’s Newcastle port rose by 31% last week. The queue of ships waiting to load coal cargoes increased to 10, Newcastle Port Corp said on its website today. Oil climbed for a second day in New York after a report showed US crude supplies declined the most since December and on speculation OPEC will increase production quotas, signaling global fuel demand will climb. Futures gained as much as 0.7% after the industry-funded American Petroleum Institute said crude stockpiles fell 5.5 million barrels to 366 million.

In soft commodities, corn for July delivery, the most active contract, traded at $7.43 a bushel at 7.25am in Singapore while wheat for delivery in the same month traded at $7.3875 a bushel.

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