Asia: Mixed as eurozone debt fears return

HONG KONG: Asian markets were mixed while the safe-haven yen edged up yesterday following a selloff on Wall Street and in Europe as fears over eurozone debt resurfaced with a payment crisis at Portugal’s biggest listed bank.

News that the parent of Banco Espirito Santo had covered up a US$1.8 billion hole in its accounts fanned worries of a return to the debt crisis that wracked Europe just three years ago.

Tokyo fell 0.34 per cent, or 52.43 points, to 15,164.04 and Seoul eased 0.70 per cent, or 14.10 points, to 1,988.74, while Sydney added 0.41 per cent, or 22.4 points, to close at 5,486.8.

Shanghai put on 0.42 per cent, or 8.62 points, to 2,046.96 .

Bangkok is closed for a public holiday.

US and European shares sank on Thursday as it emerged that Espirito Santo International, the bank’s holding firm, had failed to make payments on some short-term debt.

Trading in the bank’s shares were suspended in Lisbon Thursday after its shares plummeted 17.24 per cent. The crisis comes less than two months after Portugal exited a three-year, US$106 billion international bailout which had helped the government avert a default.

“Is this just an isolated event or is it the first chink in the chain to fire contagion fears?” said IG Markets strategist, Evan Lucas, according to Dow Jones Newswires.

In other markets:

q Mumbai fell 1.37 per cent to 25,024.35 points. Jain Irrigation slid 11.51 per cent to 102.65 rupees, while Unitech fell 10.68 per cent to 25.10 rupees.

q Jakarta ended down 1.28 per cent at 5,032.60. Palm oil producer Astra Agro Lestari fell 2.39 per cent to 26,500 rupiah, while cement producer Indocement Tunggal Prakarsa rose 0.88 per cent to 25,725 rupiah.

q Manila closed 0.52 per cent lower at 6,901.09. Alliance Global Group eased 3.69 per cent to 28.70 pesos while Philippine Long Distance Telephone lost 0.27 per cent to 3,000 pesos.

q Taipei slipped 0.72 per cent to 9,495.84. Hon Hai rose 0.46 per cent to T$109 while HTC fell 1.49 per cent to T$132.5.

q Wellington fell 0.53 per centto 5,100.59, with Air New Zealand off 2.17 per cent at NZ$2.03 and Fletcher Building slipping 0.56 per cent to NZ$8.85. AFP