Global shares start sluggishly, yen resumes decline

Wed Jan 1, 2014 6:37pm EST
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By Wayne Cole

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Asian markets got the new year off to a sluggish start as Chinese economic data disappointed ahead of a raft of reports on global manufacturing due out through the session.

The early action was in currencies, where the yen resumed its long decline as investors used it to fund purchases of higher-yielding assets abroad.

The drop in the yen has been viewed as positive for Japanese exports and corporate earnings, and a major reason its share markets outperformed all others last year.

Japan's Nikkei .N225 will be closed on Thursday and Friday. The index ended 2013 with an annual gain of 57 percent, and many analysts look for a further advance this year as the Bank of Japan remains committed to its massive stimulus campaign.

Nomura's global strategy team is forecasting that Japanese equities will provide the greatest return of all global stocks in 2014, thanks in large part to rising corporate earnings.

They see the Nikkei at 18,000 by the end of this year, up from the current 16,291, and said even 25,000 was possible by 2018 should Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's aggressive economic program prove successful in defeating deflation.

Asian markets outside of Japan had a much more mixed performance in 2013, partly because investors rediscovered the attractions of assets in Europe and the United States.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS ended last year essentially flat, and early on Thursday it was off 0.15 percent.   Continued...

An office worker walks past the board of the Australian Securities Exchange building displaying its logo in central Sydney April 5, 2013. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz