Asian Shares Mixed; Nikkei Shrugs Off Iraq Worries

By Dow Jones Business News, 

Japanese stocks swung into positive territory on Friday, shrugging off concerns over Iraq, while Hong Kong stocks hit their highest level this year.

Stocks started the day lower, as the region took a negative lead from Wall Street where shares fell on Thursday after retail sales missed expectations and news reports showed Iraq edging toward all-out sectarian conflict.

The price of oil, which had shot up 2% on Thursday on the concerns over stability in Iraq, continued to gain in Asian trade on Friday though its rise moderated later in the session. The July Nymex crude futures contract trading was last trading at $106.95 per barrel, below the session peak of $107.68 but still above $106.53 at Thursday's New York close.

The higher cost of oil did boost shares in energy companies. In Australia, Woodside Petroleum added 2% and China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation rose 1.9% in Hong Kong.

Japan's Nikkei Share Average ended up 0.8% at 15097.84 after the yen weakened during Asian trade, with the dollar rising to Yen101.96, compared with Yen101.71 late Thursday in New York. A falling yen benefits exporters in Japan because it makes its goods cheaper to overseas buyers.

Stocks were also higher in China, with banks gaining after data showed that lending surged in May, a potential boost to the sluggish economy. In addition, retail sales data that came out on Friday exceeded expectations, rising 12.5% in May from a year earlier, compared with a 12.1% increase forecast.

China Construction Bank was up 0.7% in Hong Kong and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China rose by 1.6%.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index was up 0.7% and the Shanghai Composite Index rose by 0.8%.

Elsewhere, some markets remained weighed by the overnight fall on Wall Street. South Korea's Kospi lost 1% to 1990.85, and Australia's S&P/ASX lost 0.4% to 5406.10.

Also in Australia, miners took another hit after the price of iron ore fell to a 21-month low. Fortescue Metals Group and Atlas Iron were down 5.8% and 4.9% respectively.

Write to Daniel Inman at

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This article appears in: Energy

Referenced Stocks: D , SNP , WOPEY

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