Asia markets mainly up, China slips as stock trading scheme falters

HONG KONG (AFP) - Asian markets were mainly up Monday after the majority of eurozone banks were given a clean bill of health by the European Central Bank, but China was hit by the postponement of a planned stock-trading connection between Hong Kong and Shanghai.

The Straits Times Index was nearly unchanged, down 2.19 points to 3,220.36 at 11:20am.

Tokyo was up 0.37 per cent by the break, Seoul climbed 0.42 per cent, and Sydney was up 0.56 per cent, but Shanghai dropped 0.67 per cent, while Hong Kong was down 0.94 per cent in morning trade.

The Chinese markets were affected by the suspension of the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect programme, which had been expected to launch this week.

Charles Li, the head of Hong Kong's stock exchange, said on Monday the tie-up had been postponed, and warned recent pro-democracy protests that have gripped the city for the past month could have an impact on the scheme's progress. He did not say how long the delay would be.

Other markets were boosted by a stable euro early Monday after four out of five eurozone banks passed the ECB health test, fuelling hopes that a major cause of economic uncertainty could soon be eliminated, analysts said.

The common currency bought US$1.2676 and 137.10 yen against $1.2666 and 136.97 yen in New York Friday afternoon.

The dollar was at 108.18 yen early Monday compared with 108.14 yen in US trade Friday afternoon.

US stocks Friday capped a strong week on a high note as good earnings from Microsoft and others overshadowed a poor report from Amazon.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.76 per cent while the broad-based S&P 500 advanced 0.71 per cent.

World oil prices extended last week's fall. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for delivery in December was down six cents to US$80.95 in mid-morning Asian trade and Brent crude for December tumbled 27 cents to US$85.86.