AFP - Tokyo retreated again yesterday 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 percent, while the yen lost ground against the dollar.
Despite yesterday’s fall, Japan’s benchmark index rose 0.42 percent in 2016, marking the fifth consecutive annual increase, with the market clawing back losses earlier in the year after Donald Trump’s election victory.
“Trump was a game changer,” said Hisao Matsuura, chief strategist at Nomura Securities.
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 percent, with the Hang Seng ending the year marginally up. Australian stocks finished 0.6 percent down, paring the year’s gain to seven percent. Seoul was closed for a holiday.
Shanghai recorded a rise of 0.2 percent but stocks in the world’s second largest economy have endured a torrid year, down more than 12 percent as the market was buffeted by feckless policymakers, massive capital flight and a languishing currency.
The falling yuan -- lowered seven percent 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 News 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 percent against the yen since the surprise outcome of the US election propelled Trump to the presidency. The Japanese currency, which rose against the greenback Thursday, was down against the dollar yesterday at 117.03 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.
Oil also bounced back this year, with West Texas Intermediate recovering from below $30 per barrel to rise above US$50. Its performance has been boosted by an OPEC production cut deal slated for January.
US crude slipped Friday after official US inventory data showed a surprise rise of 600,000 barrels in crude reserves, while the market had been expecting a 1.5-million-barrel drop in commercial crude stockpiles.
But analysts tipped the commodity to continue its recovery in the New Year.
“If OPEC can honour their agreements, there is a chance that crude oil can go up further and hit US$60 per barrel in 2017,” said Margaret Yang, market analyst at CMC Markets.
“In addition, it will also depend on the US-Russia relationship under Donald Trump’s administration,” she added.
In opening European trade, London shed almost 0.2 percent while in the eurozone both Paris and Frankfurt were slightly lower.