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Asian markets mixed on Iraq fears

Asian stocks were mixed on Friday (Aug 8), after US President Barack Obama said he had authorised air strikes against Sunni extremist militants in Iraq as concerns grew about the security situation there.

HONG KONG: Asian stocks closed mixed on Friday (Aug 8), after US President Barack Obama said he had authorised air strikes against Sunni extremist militants in Iraq as concerns grew about the security situation there.

Tokyo stocks dropped to a two-month low, falling 2.98 per cent, or 454.00 points, to close at 14,778.37. Sydney was down 1.34 per cent, or 73.7 points, to close at 5,435.3, while Seoul lost 1.14 per cent, or 23.41 points, to end at 2,031.10.

Hong Kong fluctuated through afternoon trade before closing down 0.23 per cent, or 56.15 points, to 24,331.41. However, stocks in mainland China bucked the downward regional trend after the world's second-largest economy saw export growth accelerate. Shanghai closed up 0.31 per cent, or 6.76 points, at 2,194.43, and Shenzhen gained 0.68 per cent, or 7.91 points, to 1,174.41.

"The market is very thin and highly reactive to overseas inputs," Yutaka Miura, senior technical analyst at Mizuho Securities, told Dow Jones Newswires. China's monthly trade surplus jumped to a record US$47.3 billion (S$59.1 billion) in July. Exports increased 14.5 per cent year-on-year to US$212.9 billion, the General Administration of Customs announced, while imports decreased 1.6 per cent to US$165.6 billion.

In Malaysia, the majority shareholder of ailing Malaysia Airlines said the firm is to be de-listed and taken private ahead of a major restructure following the twin disasters of flights MH370 and MH17. State investment fund Khazanah Nasional, which owns 70 per cent of the carrier, said it would purchase all minority shares in the firm.

In the US, The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 75.07 points (0.46 per cent) to 16,368.27. The broad-based S&P 500 fell 10.67 (0.56 per cent) to 1,909.57, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index lost 20.08 (0.46 per cent) at 4,334.97.

Brent Schutte, market strategist at BMO Global Asset Management, said Thursday's losses on Wall Street were "completely" due to a sharp worsening of conditions in Iraq.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei's tumbled below the psychologically important 15,000 level came as the yen - shot up in forex markets. The dollar dropped to as low as 101.58 yen before recovering to 101.81 yen, but it was still well down from 102.09 yen in New York late Thursday.

The euro was also lower against the Japanese currency at 136.04 yen from 136.42 yen, while it bought US$1.3360 against US$1.3363. Investors tend to buy the yen in times of uncertainty and turmoil because it is regarded as a currency safe haven.

In oil trade, the US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for September delivery rose 71 cents to US$98.05 while Brent for September gained 96 cents to US$106.40 in afternoon trade.

Gold fetched US$1,316.64 an ounce by 0900 GMT compared with US$1,305.20 late Thursday.

IN OTHER MARKETS:

- Manila fell 1.08 per cent, or 74.87 points, to 6,880.34. Philippine Long Distance Telephone dropped 0.46 per cent to 3,000.00 pesos, while Ayala Land retreated 2.23 per cent to 30.70 pesos.

- Taipei fell 0.5 per cent, or 45.48 points, to 9,085.96. TSMC fell 0.82 per cent to T$120.50, while Acer rose 1.66 per cent to T$24.45.

- Wellington fell 0.83 per cent, or 42.31 points, to 5,055.20. Telecom Corp was off 1.74 per cent at NZ$2.82 and Fletcher Building slipped 2.12 per cent to NZ$8.76. 

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