Asian stock markets edge upwards after Thursday's big sell-off

BANGKOK (AP) - Asian stock markets staged a mild recovery on Friday, a day after being routed by unexpectedly weak Chinese manufacturing and fears the Federal Reserve will start withdrawing its monetary stimulus.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index, which plummeted more than 7 per cent Thursday, bounced back a sizeable 2.8 per cent to 14,892.57. South Korea's Kospi gained 0.1 per cent to 1,971.46. Benchmarks in Indonesia, Taiwan and mainland China also rose.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng spent the morning bobbing between slight gains and slight losses before falling nearly 0.1 per cent to 22,656.15. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 tumbled 1.4 per cent to 4,992.80. Benchmarks in the Philippines and New Zealand also fell.

The Nikkei's dramatic fall on Thursday was attributed on the spike in the interest rate on the country's benchmark 10-year bond to above 1 per cent for the first time in a year, which came after Fed meeting minutes showed some of its policy makers want the US central bank to start scaling back its monetary stimulus.

The swing in Japanese bonds unnerved investors at a time when Japan's already overburdened government finances are vulnerable to rises in interest rates. The interest rate, or yield, later slipped back to about 0.9 per cent.

The sell-off is a reminder of Japan's vulnerability as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tries to end two decades of stagnation with unprecedented monetary easing, increased government spending and reforms to make the world's No. 3 economy more competitive.

Mixed messages from the Federal Reserve about when it might start scaling back its bond-buying programme also stirred investor anxiety.

The Fed is buying US$85 billion (S$108 billion) worth of bonds every month as part of its stimulus programme. That has kept interest rates low and encouraged investors to put money into stocks and other risky assets. If the Fed slows down its bond purchases, investors fear it could lead to an outpouring of money from stocks.

Benchmark oil for July delivery was down 4 cents to US$94.20 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The contract fell 3 cents to close at US$94.25 per barrel on the Nymex on Thursday.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.2920 from $1.2932 late Thursday in New York. The dollar strengthened to 102.23 yen from 101.91 yen.