Asian stocks mixed at end of a downbeat week

HONG KONG (AFP) - Asian markets were mixed Friday with a record close on Wall Street unable to lift investors at the end of a disappointing week that saw Japan plunge into recession and a trumpeted Hong Kong Shanghai exchange link-up fall flat.

The yen made some minor gains against the dollar and euro after hitting multi-year lows, but with eyes on next month's general election analysts expect it to resume its downtrend.

Tokyo fell 0.85 per cent and Sydney lost 0.16 per cent while Hong Kong shed 0.17 per cent. But Shanghai edged up 0.12 per cent and Seoul put on 0.20 per cent.

The Straits Times Index was trading up 21.71 points or 0.65 per cent at 3,337.31 at around 10:30am.

US shares ticked higher again Thursday on the back of more positive economic indicators.

A regional manufacturing index from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia surged unexpectedly, while the Conference Board's Leading Economic Index, an amalgamation of several key economic indicators, also improved. Also, US existing-home sales gained in October for the second straight month.

The figures are the latest showing the country is well on a strong recovery track, despite weaknesses in the Chinese, Japanese and eurozone economies.

The Dow climbed 0.19 per cent and the S&P 500 gained 0.20 per cent - both hitting new peaks - while the Nasdaq added 0.56 per cent.

Regional investors started the week on the back foot with the release of data showing Japan had slipped back into recession after a sales tax hike in April put the clamps on consumer spending. The news led Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to put off another hike planned for next year and call a snap election for December.

The news also fuelled speculation the Bank of Japan will unveil fresh monetary easing measures - just weeks after it ramped up its already vast bond-buying scheme on October 31 - sending the yen diving.

However, in early Tokyo trade Friday the Japanese unit was mildly stronger after hitting a more than seven-year low against the US dollar and six-year low against the euro.

The greenback bought 118.00 yen against 118.22 yen in New York Thursday, while the euro bought 148.03 yen compared with 148.25 yen.

Traders in Hong Kong and Shanghai largely brushed off the start this week of the Connect dealing tie-up that for the first time opened the mainland's markets to the international community, albeit on a limited scale.

On the launch day Hong Kong investors had exhausted their daily allowance of Shanghai shares two hours before the close, but mainlanders were less keen - using up less than a fifth of their quota by the end of trade.

And interest faded throughout the week as investors, who were also spooked by more soft Chinese economic data, stayed on the sidelines.

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