Markets: Nikkei hits high as Abe takes control

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Japan’s benchmark Nikkei index soared to a nine-month high yesterday as the country swore in a new prime minister promising dramatic measures to restore the world’s third-largest economy to growth.

Shinzo Abe, whose party won a landslide victory in an election earlier this month, is calling for a mix of aggressive monetary policy easing and big fiscal spending to beat deflation and rein in the strong yen.

He has kept up pressure on the Bank of Japan to be more drastic and adopt a 2 per cent inflation target - high for Japan – to beat deep-rooted deflation. That helped the Yen hit to a 20-month low against the dollar.

Other Asian markets were less buoyant in thin holiday trade, investors focusing on the fate of US negotiations to avert a budget crunch. President Barack Obama was expected to return early from his Hawaiian holiday to address the unfinished negotiations over the “fiscal cliff” of some $600 billion (£370bn) in automatic spending cuts and tax increases set to kick in on 1 January.

The Nikkei added 1.5 per cent at 10,230.4, which may give London’s bulls a new platform to push the FTSE 100 higher before the year is out. On Monday, the Footsie added 14.2 points to close at 5,954.2 in slim trade and despite being open for just half the usual session.

Miners were in demand as the few traders who hadn’t made an early start to their Christmas break took an optimistic view of the outlook for the global economy in 2013. David Jones, chief market strategist at IG, said the final three trading ways of the year could prove volatile as thin volumes can often exaggerate moves.

“The US fiscal cliff has only provided the briefest of market wobbles so far,” he said. “Sentiment is definitely ending the year on a more optimistic footing than we have been used to recently, and does suggest that January at least could see some more upside squeezed out by US and European markets.”

Markets in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and South Korea reopened on yesterday after the Christmas holiday. Australia and Hong Kong remained closed along with European bourses.

NEW YORK: Wall Street continued its downward trend, finishing down last night for the third straight session, dragged lower by retail stocks after a report showed US consumers spent less in the holiday shopping season than last year.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 24.49 points, or 0.19 per cent, to end at 13,114.59 while the broader Standard & Poor’s 500 Index closed down 6.81 points, or 0.48 per cent, at 1,419.85. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 22.44 points, or 0.74 per cent, to finish the day at 2,990.16.