Asian share mixed as oil prices fall

Asian stocks were mixed Friday as an easing in oil prices caused by OPEC’s promise to boost output was tempered by uncertainty over the ongoing political crisis on Libya.

And the euro extended its recent rally against the dollar as expectations grow that the European Central Bank will hike interest rates soon as it tries to take the heat out of rising eurozone inflation.

Tokyo gained 0.22 percent by the break, Hong Kong rose 0.51 percent in early trade and Sydney rose 0.10 percent while Seoul was flat.

But Shanghai slipped 0.35 percent due to a sell-off in energy firms that have seen strong gains on the back of the oil surge.

The recent oil price rally was halted after the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) said it would increase production to make up for any losses caused by the turmoil in oil exporter Libya.

Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said his country would also increase output, according to oil specialist Platts.

Brent North Sea crude for delivery in April was down 47 cents to $110.89 after almost hitting $120 on Thursday.

New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for April delivery, dipped 40 cents to $96.88 per barrel.

Global markets have fallen over the past week as uprisings across the oil-rich Middle East sparked concerns that crude costs would go up, putting upward pressure on inflation at a time when many countries are struggle to keep a lid on prices.

However, the troubles in Libya, where Moamer Kadhafi was just clinging to his four-decade rule, kept a cap on gains.

The euro climbed against the greenback after German central bank chief Axel Weber said Thursday that interest rates “can only go one way from here”.

“Rates only know one direction at the moment — and that is north,” he said.     The single European currency traded at $1.3826 in Tokyo morning trading, compared to 1.3797 in New York late Thursday. It rose to 113.29 yen from 112.94 yen.

Sumino Kamei, senior analyst at the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, said: “The hawkish comment from Weber gave an additional fuel to speculation about the ECB’s rate hike.”

The dollar fetched 81.92 yen, little changed from 81.91 yen.

On Tokyo’s Nikkei car giant Toyota rose 1.63 percent despite news late Thursday that it had recalled more than two million vehicles to fix floor mat and carpet defects that could jam the accelerator.

The improved sentiment saw the price of safe-haven gold ease slightly, to $1,402.50-$1,403.50 an ounce from Thursday’s close of $1,414.00-$1,415.00.