Tuesday, September 05, 2006

GLOBAL MARKETS-Yen extends gains, Asian markets await US return

By Jeremy Laurence

SINGAPORE, Sept 5 (Reuters) - The yen extended gains on Tuesday, riding to a two-week high against the dollar on economic optimism, while trading in Asian shares was mostly listless after the Labor Day holiday in the United States.

Britain's FTSE 100 index (.FTSE: Quote, Profile, Research), which had climbed to a 3- month high on Monday, opened little changed while France's CAC 40 <.FCHI> and Germany's DAX <.GDAXI> dipped slightly.

Oil prices steadied after their recent fall, which came as fears eased over OPEC producer Iran's nuclear ambitions.

The Tokyo and Seoul share markets closed slightly higher.

The Japanese currency rallied after Monday's strong data on capital spending prompted a market which was heavily short of the yen to buy it back. Data showed short positions in the yen were at a record high last week.

"The spending data was strong ... so the market is testing the upper and lower limits of recent ranges," said Nobuo Ibaraki, forex manager at Nomura Securities, referring to the 114-118 yen range the dollar/yen has traded in for much of the summer.

The dollar traded around 115.85 yen at 0610 GMT, while the euro was trading at 148.73 yen .

Japan's Nikkei average ended up 0.17 percent as investors sought bargains in stocks such as Internet group Softbank Corp (9984.T: Quote, Profile, Research) while a stronger yen prompted some profit-taking on exporters such as Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (7267.T: Quote, Profile, Research).

Sharp Corp (6753.T: Quote, Profile, Research) declined after the Daiwa Institute of Research downgraded the stock while Fast Retailing Co. (9983.T: Quote, Profile, Research) managed to end flat despite announcing it would not make a bid for Hong Kong-listed clothing retailer Giordano International Ltd. (0709.HK: Quote, Profile, Research).

The Nikkei <.N225> eked out a 27.89-point gain to close at 16,385.96 after hitting a three-month high on Monday.

MSCI's broadest index of shares elsewhere in Asia <.MSCIAPJ> was up 0.1 percent at 0618 GMT.

MARKETS FALL

Seoul's benchmark index <.KS11> edged 0.16 percent higher, hitting a three-month closing high. State-run power provider Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO) (015760.KS: Quote, Profile, Research) rose 0.68 percent, while Hynix fell 2.25 percent.

Lee Woo-hyun, an analyst at Kyobo Securities, said he expected the KOSPI index to post more gains this month amid expectations the U.S. economy will avoid a hard landing.

"U.S. markets and global markets have risen to due to easing worries about a slowdown in the (U.S.) economy," he said. "Those factors could continue to drive up the markets in September."

Taiwan's main index <.TWII> dipped 0.24 percent, while Hong Kong's benchmark index <.HSI> was slightly down by midafternoon.

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