* Nikkei futures firm on last Tokyo trading day of year
* Yen hits fresh five-year lows on dollar and euro
* Other Asian markets more mixed as funds return to US,
By Wayne Cole
SYDNEY, Dec 30 Asian markets looked to run out
the year with a flourish on Monday, with Japanese shares again
set to lead the way as the yen skidded to fresh lows for a third
Nikkei futures were pointing to a firm start for the
cash index, which notched up an eight straight session
of gains on Friday in its longest such streak since March. The
market is closed from Tuesday to Friday inclusive.
The major U.S. stock indexes ended Friday flat
for the session but still up between 1.3 and 1.6 percent for the
week. The MSCI World Index added 0.4 percent on
Friday to be up nearly 20 percent for the year.
Australian stocks added 0.5 percent and were on
track to show a gain of 15 percent for the year.
Much of Asia, however, has underperformed, in part due to
investors shifting funds from emerging markets and into Europe
and the United States.
As a result, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares
outside Japan is almost unchanged for the year.
In stark contrast, Japan's Nikkei has risen almost 56
percent in 2013, its best annual performance since 1972, urged
on by aggressive monetary and fiscal stimulus.
There were more promising signs for the economy when the
Asahi newspaper reported Japan's most influential business lobby
has agreed to encourage its members to raise workers' base pay
for the first time in six years.
Many economists say an increase in base pay is essential to
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's pledge to end 15 years of deflation
and to help the Bank of Japan meet its 2 percent inflation
Aiding the economy has been the fall in the yen this year,
which has left it at five-year trough against the dollar and
The dollar was up at 105.32 yen on Monday after
reaching a fresh peak at 105.37. The yen posted its ninth
consecutive week of falls against the dollar, the longest such
period since 1974.
The euro was also firm at 144.82 yen, having been
as far as 145.67 yen on Friday.
Thin year-end conditions made for some wild moves, with the
euro vaulting as high as $1.3892 on Friday before falling
back. On Monday, the single currency was somewhat calmer at
$1.3753 with offers crowded in the $1.3810/35 area.
The single currency could find further support from comments
by European Central Bank President Mario Draghi that he saw no
urgent need to cut interest rates again and no signs of
Less positive was news Italy's third-biggest bank, Monte dei
Paschi di Siena, was forced to delay a vital 3 billion
euro ($4.1 billion) share sale because of shareholder
opposition, plunging its turnaround plan into uncertainty.
The world's oldest bank needs to tap investors for cash to
pay back state aid and avert nationalisation.
Underpinning both the dollar and euro have been widening
yield premiums over Japanese debt.
Yields on the U.S. benchmark 10-year Treasury note have
climbed to their highest in more than two years at 3.02 percent
. The comparable Japanese yield is at just 0.715
Analysts at RBS note that yields on the 30 year Treasury
bond were approaching a hugely important level at 4.05 percent,
which marks the top of a bull channel going back two decades. A
breach there would be viewed as very bearish for bonds.
In commodity markets, London copper was up at its
highest level in four months, with signs of economic revival in
Asia and the United States burnishing the demand outlook for
Gold added a couple of dollars to $1,215, but was
still on track for its biggest annual loss in three decades.
Brent crude oil was 2 cents lower at $112.16 a
barrel, while U.S. light sweet crude eased back 13 cents
to $100.19 a barrel.