Hong Kong: Asia's markets fell on Monday in the first full day of trade in the New Year, with Tokyo tumbling as the dollar and euro retreated from five-year highs against the yen.
Investors were given a mixed lead from Wall Street after Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke called for continued efforts to reinforce the recovery in the US economy.
Tokyo fell 2.35 per cent, or 382.43 points, to 15,908.88, Sydney lost 0.47 per cent, or 25.2 points, to 5,324.9, Shanghai gave up 1.80 per cent, or 37.43 points, to finish at 2,045.71, while Hong Kong lost 0.58 per cent, or 133.13 points, to close at 22,684.15. However, Seoul rose 0.37 per cent, or 7.14 points, to close at 1,953.28.
Japan's Nikkei started the year with heavy losses after surging 57 per cent in 2013, with profit-taking adding to downward pressure, while the yen rebounded from recent lows.
The dollar and euro early last week hit highs against the yen not seen since October 2008, but they fell back on Friday in thin trade as many dealers stayed away after the holiday season.
“Tokyo stocks are overbought, and a break in the yen's fall, plus weaker futures are sure to result in some long-needed profit-taking after the December run-up,” said Hiroichi Nishi, general manager of equities at SMBC Nikko Securities.
“Hopes for a continued US economic recovery and longer-term dollar appreciation should keep sharp selloffs well contained, however,” he added.
The US currency stood at 104.43 yen Monday in Tokyo against 104.85 yen in New York Friday, and well off the mid-105 yen mark seen at the start of last week.
The euro bought 141.85 yen compared with 142.44 yen, well down from the 145.69 reached last Monday. The single currency was also at $1.3582, from $1.3586.
In the United States Bernanke, in a speech to economists Friday as he prepares to leave office, called for continued efforts to make sure the world's number one economy keeps growing and unemployment carries on falling.
Highlighting that the US jobless rate fell from 10 per cent in 2009 to seven per cent recently, Bernanke nevertheless insisted: “Much progress has been made, but more remains to be done.”
He added that the Fed's decision last month to cut its monthly bond-buying by $10 billion to $75 billion did not indicate any lesser commitment to maintain an easy-money policy “for as long as needed”.
The Dow Friday added 0.17 per cent, the S&P 500 dipped 0.03 per cent and the Nasdaq fell 0.27 per cent.
Chinese shares extended their losses from last week on fears that the restart of initial public offerings after a year-long hiatus will cause a glut at a time with there is already concern about liquidity.
On oil markets New York's main contract West Texas Intermediate for February delivery was up 32 cents at $94.28 in afternoon trade, while Brent North Sea crude also for February rose 42 cents to $107.31.
Gold fetched $1,237.60 at 1035 GMT compared with $1,233.55 late Friday.