By TERESA CEROJANO
MANILA, Philippines (AP) – Asian shares meandered Thursday amid uncertainty over the world outlook in general and the Japanese economy in particular, following a decision by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to postpone a sales tax hike to avoid shocks to the country’s faltering recovery.
KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 2.1 percent to 16,593.61. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was nearly flat at 20,708.26. The Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.2 percent to 2,907.17. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.8 percent to 5,280.10, while South Korea’s KOSPI edged 0.1 percent higher to 1,985.46. Southeast Asian markets were mixed.
ANALYST VIEWPOINT: “Despite appearances of calm in equities, markets continue to be plagued by uncertainty with magnified volatility and divergence in currencies,” Mizuho Bank said in a market commentary. It said the delay in raising Japan’s sales tax may have “induced anxiety over fiscal sustainability and underscored uncertainty in the economy.”
WALL STREET GAINS: U.S. stocks perked up after a downbeat start to eke out a small gain Wednesday. Consumer companies were among the big gainers as investors sized up mixed data on U.S. manufacturing, housing and auto sales. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 2.47 points, or 0.01 percent, to 17,789.67. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index added 2.37 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,099.33.
OPEC MEETING: Investors are closely watching for the outcome of a top-level meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries on Thursday in Vienna. Analysts say oil ministers from the 13-nation oil cartel are unlikely to reach any agreement on production targets or production caps. After touching a 13-year low early this year, the price of oil has gained nearly 90 percent since January.
OIL: U.S. crude shed 8 cents at $48.93 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It closed 9 cents lower to $49.01 on Wednesday. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, gained 5 cents at $49.77. On Wednesday, it slid 17 cents to close at $49.72 a barrel.
CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 108.95 yen from 109.48 in the previous day’s trading. The euro rose to $1.1210 from $1.1188.
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