Asian markets muted amid Cyprus uncertainty

Associated Press

HONG KONG (AP) — Japanese stocks tumbled Friday as investors were disappointed by a lack of specifics from the new central bank chief on boosting the economy while other Asian markets fluctuated because of uncertainty over Cyprus' troubled bank restructuring.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 fell 1.5 percent to 12,446.27 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.4 percent to 22,130.08. South Korea's Kospi edged up 0.1 percent at 1,953.16.

In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite Index added 0.1 percent to 2,327.32 and the smaller Shenzhen Composite Index gained 0.1 percent to 959.21. Both Chinese indexes swung between gains and losses in morning trading.

Australia's S&P ASX 200 rose 0.3 percent to 4.975.90. Benchmarks in Taiwan and Singapore edged up, while New Zealand dipped.

The dollar weakened to 94.92 Japanese yen from 95.01 in late trading Thursday. The yen weakened after Haruhiko Kuroda delivered his first speech late Thursday following his installation as central bank governor, reiterating a pledge to bring Asia's second biggest economy out of deflation but offering few specifics.

Other Asian markets were muted as investors remained wary while Cyprus works to restructure its banks ahead of a Monday deadline. The Mediterranean nation is trying to raise about $7.5 billion to avoid bankruptcy. If it can't, the European Central Bank has threatened to cut off emergency support for its banks, which would devastate its economy and possibly force it out of the euro.

Investors "just want them to get it done," said Jackson Wong, a vice president at Tanrich Securities. "The financial markets are counting on the confidence."

Petrochina fell 2.5 percent after the state-owned Chinese energy company said profit last year fell on price controls and higher cost of imported natural gas.

State-owned China Unicom, the country's second biggest mobile phone carrier by subscribers, jumped 4.6 percent after annual profit rose because of higher 3G revenue.

In other currencies, the euro rose to $1.2916 from $1.2899 in late trading Thursday.

Oil prices rose, with benchmark crude for May delivery up 25 cents to $92.70 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York. The contract fell $1.05 to finish at $92.45 a barrel on Thursday.

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