Barefoot Investor: Asian Stocks Fluctuate as Korea Tensions Temper Ireland Hopes

Asian stocks fluctuated as escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula tempered gains after Europe agreed a bailout for Ireland.

BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s largest mining company and Australia’s No. 1 oil producer, retreated 0.6 percent in Sydney as mounting concern over Korean tensions drove oil and metal prices lower. Korea Exchange Bank slumped 5 percent in Seoul as South Korea’s President said patience only invites more provocation from North Korea. Sony Corp., Japan’s biggest exporter of consumer electronics, rose 2.2 percent in Tokyo after European government officials threw debt-strapped Ireland a lifeline.

“Global thematics are driving markets right now,” said Jason Teh, who helps manage about $2.6 billion at Investors Mutual Ltd. in Sydney. “You’ve got the Irish bailout on the one hand and, meanwhile, the threat of war on the other side of the world, which is causing jitters. Any optimism also gets harder to price in with the market being more expensive after recent rallies.”

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index was little changed at 129.06 as of 11:13 a.m. in Tokyo, with about the same number of stocks gaining as falling. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average advanced 0.3 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 0.5 percent and New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index slipped 0.4 percent in Wellington.

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index gained 0.2 percent. The index lost 0.8 percent on Nov. 26 in New York as a stronger dollar weighed on commodity prices and banks declined amid mounting concern about Europe’s debt crisis and escalating tensions in Korea. Markets were open for half a day following the Thanksgiving holiday. (Source: Bloomberg)


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