Euro fears resurface as gold surges in Asia

HONG KONG, May 12, 2010 (AFP) - Worries over the eurozone's debt problems despite a one-trillion-dollar rescue deal sent gold to a record high Wednesday while the euro slid as investors looked for safer assets.

As euphoria that initially greeted the massive EU-IMF support scheme for debt-ridden eurozone nations faded, demand for the precious metal soared to 1,235.50 dollars an ounce by midday in Hong Kong before settling at 1,233.00.

It jumped to 1,239.00 in early London trade.

Heightened concerns about the risk of contagion from Greece's debt woes have attracted fresh inflows of cash into gold while investors continue to move out of the ailing euro, which remained depressed in Tokyo trade Wednesday.

"Investors now see that the magnitude of the eurozone debt problems is much bigger than they had initially thought," Hideaki Inoue, senior foreign-exchange dealer at Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking, told Dow Jones Newswires.

"There are still just no reasons for anyone to aggressively buy the euro."

The single currency edged up slightly to 1.2730 dollars, from 1.2644 dollars in New York Tuesday.

The debt crisis began as Greece teetered toward default, triggering fears that other weak economies such as Portugal, Spain and Italy might follow.

While major governments have expressed optimism the 750 billion euros (one trillion dollars) set aside by the European Union and International Monetary Fund would prevent a new crisis enveloping the global economy, questions over its implementation remain.

A warning from Moody's Investors Service that it may downgrade Portugal and lower debt-laden Greece's rating to junk status also stoked bearish sentiment, after a similar move by Standard & Poor's saw borrowing costs spike for Athens.

Investors have switched focus to how the massive bailout will be carried out and the implications for future financial governance in the eurozone, amid doubts about whether debt-ridden members can reduce their deficits.

Mizuho Corporate Bank market economist Daisuke Karakama also questioned an earlier 110-billion-euro rescue deal for Greece that would pass its debt on to the EU -- mostly to Germany and France.

"Where have the debts gone? Passing debts around is not good for the future of Europe," he said.

Regional shares were mixed, with some bargain-buying lifting markets following Tuesday's losses.

Sydney rose 0.55 percent, or 25.1 points, to 4,573.1 after Treasurer Wayne Swan forecast the government's budget would return to surplus three years sooner than expected and before any other major advanced economy, buoyed by key commodity exports. The index was also boosted by gold miners' popularity on the back of the precious metal's record price.

Tokyo ended down 0.16 percent, or 17.07 points, at 19,394.03. Toyota surged 2.71 percent after the company said Tuesday it had returned to the black and posted a 112 billion yen (1.2 billion dollar) profit in the March quarter, the height of its 10 million vehicle recall crisis.

"Exporters' earnings are attracting short-term buyers, but at the same time, there are concerns over the weak euro, so sentiment is somewhat mixed," said Tachibana Securities strategist Kenichi Hirano.

Hong Kong rose 0.33 percent, or 65.98 points, to close at 20,212.49 while Shanghai added 0.31 percent, or 8.14 points, to 2,655.71 as bargain hunters moved in to pick up from Tuesday's losses.

However concerns over mainland plans to cool the property market and keep a lid on inflation capped gains.

Chinese real estate prices in major cities rose 12.8 percent in April, the biggest year on year jump in nearly five years, the National Bureau of Statistics said Tuesday.

And on Wednesday state media reported Shanghai was contemplating a combination of new measures to cool the city's red-hot property market, including levying a real-estate tax on some categories of home owner.

Oil was lower, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for June delivery, down 63 cents to 75.74 dollars a barrel.

Brent North Sea crude for June slid 19 cents to 80.30 dollars a barrel.


In other markets:

-- Manila closed 0.20 percent higher, adding 6.48 points to 3,269.41.

Dealers were lifted by renewed optimism caused by the holding of relatively peaceful, orderly national elections on Monday, dealers said.

Ayala Corp. gained 1.54 percent to 330 pesos while its real estate flagship, Ayala Land Inc. rose 1.85 percent to 13.75 pesos.

Energy Development Corp. bucked the trend to fall 1.85 percent to 5.30 pesos.

-- Singapore closed 0.79 percent, or 22.66 points, higher at 2,880.33.

Banking group DBS rose four cents to 14.44 Singapore dollars, Singapore Airlines climbed 28 cents to 14.90 and Singapore Telecom edged two cents higher to 3.00.

-- Kuala Lumpur closed up 0.25 percent, or 3.38 points, at 1,344.10 due to bargain-hunting in blue-chips.

Gaming group Berjaya Toto gained 2.70 percent to 4.64 ringgit while palm oil giant IOI Corp lost 0.90 percent to 5.37.

-- Seoul closed 0.43 percent, or 7.21 points, lower at 1,663.03.

-- Taipei ended flat, edging 5.74 points lower to 7,602.70.

United Microelectronics Corp was 1.33 percent lower to 14.9 Taiwan dollars while Hon Hai was flat at 140.0.

-- Jakarta gained 1.23 percent, or 34.73 points, to end at 2,847.62.

Cigarette maker Gudang Garam jumped 11 percent to 31,400 rupiah, while Bank Tabungan Negara rose 4.5 percent to 1,390 rupiah.

-- Wellington closed 0.35 percent, or 10.95 points, lower at 3,156.08.

Fletcher Building fell seven cents to 7.84 New Zealand dollars, and Contact Energy rose two cents to 6.14.

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