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Tokyo stocks down again as Asian markets end volatile year


Hong Kong: Tokyo retreated again on Friday despite Toshiba’s shares ending their three-day free fall but Hong Kong rallied as Asian markets brought down the curtain on a volatile year.

With Wall Street inching back further from breaching the historic 20,000 barrier, the Nikkei fell for a third day, dropping 0.2 per cent, while the yen lost ground against the dollar.

Despite Friday’s fall, Japan’s benchmark index rose 0.42 per cent in 2016, marking the fifth consecutive annual increase, with the market clawing back losses earlier in the year after Donald Trump’s election victory.

And shares in troubled Toshiba bounced back following a bloodletting since Tuesday that saw investors dump stock over a massive one-time loss.

Hong Kong advanced one per cent, with the Hang Seng set to end the year marginally up. Australian stocks finished 0.6 per cent down, paring the year’s gain to seven per cent. Seoul was closed for a holiday while Singapore was trading modestly higher.

Shanghai recorded a rise of 0.2 per cent but stocks in the world’s second largest economy have endured a torrid year, buffeted by feckless policymakers, massive capital flight and a languishing currency.

The falling yuan — lowered seven per cent by the central bank over the year in the face of a surging dollar — has driven investors abroad in search of better performance.

Trading has been light worldwide this week, with volumes in crude oil, equities and currencies all below average.

Jingyi Pan, a market strategist at IG Asia, told Bloomberg Asian markets had “little inspiration for price direction”.

He added: “The market is likely to be repositioning for the New Year with US markets and that could place some pressure on markets that have underperformed lately.”

While the London Stock Exchange is ending the year at record levels, Britain has been rocked by the shock vote to leave the European Union in June, with sterling the year’s second-worst performer among major currencies, beaten only by the Mexican peso.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the dollar has climbed about 10 per cent against the yen since the surprise outcome of the US election propelled Trump to the presidency. The Japanese currency, which rose against the greenback on Thursday, was down against the dollar Friday at 116.81 yen. The Dow has also reached new highs as dealers bet Trump’s plans for big state infrastructure spending, tax cuts and deregulation will fire the US economy. — AFP

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