By Chikako Mogi
TOKYO, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Asian shares steadied as investors
awaited the G20 meeting of finance and central bank officials
over the weekend for clues to their views about global growth
and the role currencies play in the economies of individual
The MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside
Japan steadied, after rising 0.8 percent the day
Australian shares inched up 0.1 percent in cautious
trade as investors awaited results from blue chip miner Rio
Tinto, which could determine whether the market will continue
its bull run after closing on Wednesday above 5,000 for the
first time since the Lehman Brothers collapse in 2008.
South Korean shares opened 0.1 percent higher after
hitting a three-week closing high and logging their biggest
daily percentage gain since Jan. 2 on Wednesday as investors
cheered a pause in the yen's decline.
'The break in the yen's recent weakness is expected to
support the main board, as currency issues are expected to be
further discussed at the G20 finance ministers' meeting,' said
Park Sung-hoon, an analyst at Woori Investment & Securities, of
The Nikkei stock average opened up 0.2 percent after
slumping 1 percent the day before when the firming yen prompted
investors to take profits on exporters.
Central banks in South Korea and Japan announce policy
decisions later in the session, with no change expected from
Markets in China and Taiwan remain shut for the Lunar New
Year holiday but Hong Kong resumes trading on Thursday.
The dollar was down 0.2 percent to 93.15 yen after
marking its highest level since May 2010 of 94.465 on Monday.
The euro fell 0.3 percent to 125.22 yen, well below
its peak since April 2010 of 127.71 yen touched last week.
The yen lost nearly 20 percent against the dollar between
November and early February, and more than 20 percent against
The yen began its steady fall in mid-November as
expectations built for a new government to take aggressive steps
to bring Japan out of years of slump. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
is pushing for strong reflationary steps, pressuring the BOJ to
take unprecedented expansionary measures.
The yen's rapid depreciation, after years of sharp
appreciation, has drawn some criticism from overseas, with
rhetoric heating up ahead of the G20 meeting, the latest coming
from Russia, chair of the Group of 20 nations.
Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak told reporters on
Wednesday in Moscow, ahead of the G20 meeting on Friday and
Saturday, that the yen was 'definitely overvalued' and that
'there are no signs' that Japan's monetary authorities were
intervening on the foreign exchanges.
'Various interpretations this week over what the G20 may say
about Japan's policy and a weak yen trend have been used as an
excuse to adjust positions ahead of the meeting, and I expect
forex to be in ranges,' said Yuji Saito, director of foreign
exchange at Credit Agricole in Tokyo.
'Currency will be discussed but I think Russia wants the
meeting to focus on broader economic issues involving emerging
markets as it is the G20 gathering,' he said.
Traders and analysts say 90-95 yen to the dollar appeared to
be a comfortable range for now, unless upside surprises emerge
in the U.S. economy or Japan quickly implements unexpectedly
drastic reflationary policies, both of which will swing the
dollar higher above the range.
But they said any yen buyback will likely lose momentum
around 87 yen, halfway between the yen's slump from mid-November
to early February.
Data published on Thursday showed Japan's economy shrank 0.1
percent in October-December from the previous quarter, falling
for a third straight quarter.
U.S. retail sales barely rose in the month as tax increases
and higher gasoline prices restrained spending.
But sentiment in Europe improved after an Italian bond
auction drew strong demand on Wednesday despite uncertainty over
next week's elections, and euro zone factory output data
confirmed a recovery, albeit slow.
U.S. crude was up 0.1 percent to $97.12 a barrel.
(Additional reporting by Joyce Lee in Seoul; Editing by Eric
((To read Reuters Global Investing Blog click on
for the Macro Scope Blog click on
for Hedge Fund Blog Hub
click on http://blogs.reuters.com/hedgehub)
(For the state of play of Asian stock markets please click on:)
Copyright Thomson Reuters 2013. All rights reserved.
The copying, republication or redistribution of Reuters News Content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Thomson Reuters.