TOKYO - Shares advanced in Asia but were trading lower early Monday in Europe in thin pre-holiday trading, after Japan's Nikkei 225 index ended 2013 at its highest level in more than six years.
The Japanese benchmark gained 0.7
percent to 16,291.31 on Monday, its highest close since late 2007. Prime
Minister Shinzo Abe took time out from his winter vacation to celebrate the
year-end trading close.
"Thanks to our efforts, the
economy went from minus to positive," Abe said. With winter bonuses up by
several hundred dollars on average, he said, "You have to use that money,
keep it moving."
In early European trading, Germany's
DAX index edged 0.01 percent lower to 9,589.17 while Britain's FTSE 100 also
was 0.03 percent lower, at 6,747.20. France's CAC gained 0.2 percent to 4,284.32.
This was a banner year for many
markets, with the DAX up 26 percent, the CAC index up 18.4 percent and the FTSE
100 gaining 14 percent. But none matched the Nikkei 225, which soared 56.7
percent in 2013 on renewed confidence in the economy after years of feeble
Easy liquidity from government
spending and monetary policies aimed at fueling inflation boosted shares,
though the potential for continued strong gains remains uncertain.
For now, Abe can point to the share
rally as evidence his "Abenomics" policies are yielding results.
"The Nikkei still looks to round
off what has been an astonishing year ... its best year since 1972," Chris
Weston of IG Markets said in a commentary, noting that the gain in that year
was 92 percent and unlikely to ever be beaten.
"For those looking for
volatility, the Nikkei will remain a major focus for traders in 2014," he
Japanese shares will get support in
coming months from newly established individual savings accounts, called NISA,
that are expected to draw a significant share of household savings into the
For the rest of Asia, 2013 has turned
out to be much less exuberant.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index, burdened
by rising concern over debt and slowing growth in mainland China, has gained
just 2.4 percent this year. On Monday, it edged 0.2 percent lower to 23,209.25
as end-of-year window dressing was offset by thin trading volume.
The Shanghai Composite Index fell 7
percent this year and extended that loss Monday, drifting 0.1 percent lower to
Still, a correction in the Hong Kong
and China markets earlier in the month has put shares at a stable level, said
Kwong Man Bun, an analyst at KGI Securities in Hong Kong.
"The market is still quite
cautious, but confidence is still there," he said. "There is a
holiday mood, but turnover has not yet recovered."
Elsewhere in Asia, shares rose in
Australia, South Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, mainland China
and New Zealand. India share prices fell.
In foreign exchange markets, the
dollar was trading at 105.376 Japanese yen, while the euro fell a cent to
Oil prices remained above $100, with
benchmark U.S. oil for February delivery up 6 cents to $100.38 in electronic
trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Markets in Thailand and the
Philippines were closed for holidays.