Asian markets mixed ahead of European inflation, first Christmas sales data

BEIJING, China – Asian stock markets were mixed Friday as traders awaited European inflation data and the first day of the U.S. Christmas shopping season.

The region’s heavyweight, Japan’s Nikkei 225, fell 0.4 per cent to 15,661.87 after gaining strongly on Thursday. Hong Kong and Taipei rose but benchmarks in South Korea, Singapore and Australia declined.

Trading was light after U.S. markets were closed Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday. Wall Street reopens for shortened trading hours Friday, while markets watched the informal start of Christmas shopping, a critical period for retailers.

In Europe, Germany’s DAX gained 0.1 per cent to 9,392.74 while France’s CAC-40 was unchanged at 4,304.74. Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.2 per cent to 6,665.30.

Futures pointed to gains on Wall Street, with Dow and S&P 500 futures both up 0.2 per cent.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index added 0.4 per cent to 23,881.29 and Taiwan’s Taiex rose 0.5 per cent to 8,406.63. India’s Sensex jumped 1.1 per cent to 20,769.11.

China’s benchmark Shanghai Composite Index was nearly unchanged at 2,220.50 and Seoul’s Kospi was fractionally lower at 2,044.87. Sydney’s S&P/ASX 200 was off 0.3 per cent at 5,320.

Traders were looking ahead to inflation data due out Friday for European countries that use the euro currency. A decline from October’s 0.7 per cent rate might stoke hopes for more monetary easing by the European Central Bank but some analysts expected an uptick in price rises.

Stronger inflation would “remove some of the pressure on the ECB to act,” said Credit Agricole CIB in a report.

On Thursday, the Nikkei gained 1.8 per cent to its highest close since December 2007. Japanese stocks have been boosted by the yen’s decline, which helps exporters by making their goods less expensive abroad.

In currency markets, the euro strengthened to $1.3620 from $1.3600 late Thursday. The dollar rose to 102.35 yen from 102.33 yen.

Benchmark crude was up 31 cents to $92.61 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices have drifted down in recent weeks amid high supplies and as concern over Syria and Iran subsided.