Asian shares edge higher, cautious before G20
Feb 14 2013 , Tokyo
The MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan steadied, after rising 0.8% the day before.
Australian shares inched up 0.1% in cautious trade as investors awaited results from blue chip miner Rio Tinto, which could determine whether the market will continue its bull run after closing on Wednesday above 5,000 for the first time since the Lehman Brothers collapse in 2008.
South Korean shares opened 0.1% higher after hitting a three-week closing high and logging their biggest daily percentage gain since January 2 on Wednesday as investors cheered a pause in the yen's decline.
"The break in the yen's recent weakness is expected to support the main board, as currency issues are expected to be further discussed at the G20 finance ministers' meeting," said Park Sung-hoon, an analyst at Woori Investment & Securities, of Seoul shares.
The Nikkei stock average opened up 0.2% after slumping 1% the day before when the firming yen prompted investors to take profits on exporters.
Central banks in South Korea and Japan announce policy decisions later in the session, with no change expected from either bank.
Markets in China and Taiwan remain shut for the Lunar New Year holiday but Hong Kong resumes trading on Thursday.
The dollar was down 0.2% to 93.15 yen after marking its highest level since May 2010 of 94.465 on Monday. The euro fell 0.3% to 125.22 yen, well below its peak since April 2010 of 127.71 yen touched last week.
The yen lost nearly 20% against the dollar between November and early February, and more than 20% against the euro.
The yen began its steady fall in mid-November as expectations built for a new government to take aggressive steps to bring Japan out of years of slump. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing for strong reflationary steps, pressuring the BOJ to take unprecedented expansionary measures.
The yen's rapid depreciation, after years of sharp appreciation, has drawn some criticism from overseas, with rhetoric heating up ahead of the G20 meeting, the latest coming from Russia, chair of the Group of 20 nations.
Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak told reporters on Wednesday in Moscow, ahead of the G20 meeting on Friday and Saturday, that the yen was "definitely overvalued" and that "there are no signs" that Japan's monetary authorities were intervening on the foreign exchanges.
"Various interpretations this week over what the G20 may say about Japan's policy and a weak yen trend have been used as an excuse to adjust positions ahead of the meeting, and I expect forex to be in ranges," said Yuji Saito, director of foreign exchange at Credit Agricole in Tokyo.
"Currency will be discussed but I think Russia wants the meeting to focus on broader economic issues involving emerging markets as it is the G20 gathering," he said.
Traders and analysts say 90-95 yen to the dollar appeared to be a comfortable range for now, unless upside surprises emerge in the US economy or Japan quickly implements unexpectedly drastic reflationary policies, both of which will swing the dollar higher above the range.
But they said any yen buyback will likely lose momentum around 87 yen, halfway between the yen's slump from mid-November to early February.
Data published on Thursday showed Japan's economy shrank 0.1% in October-December from the previous quarter, falling for a third straight quarter.
US retail sales barely rose in the month as tax increases and higher gasoline prices restrained spending.
But sentiment in Europe improved after an Italian bond auction drew strong demand on Wednesday despite uncertainty over next week's elections, and euro zone factory output data confirmed a recovery, albeit slow.
US crude was up 0.1% to $97.12 a barrel.