By PAMELA SAMPSON, Associated Press
BANGKOK (AP) — Japan's benchmark stock index soared on its first trading day of the new year Friday, as investors reacted to a weakening yen and Washington's temporary avoidance of the so-called fiscal cliff.
But other Asian markets stalled as enthusiasm faded over the last-minute budget deal reached in Washington to avoid steep, automatic tax increases and spending cuts that would have taken effect Tuesday. But the measure was largely seen as crisis avoidance — and puts off hard decisions about how to reduce government spending and deal with the country's massive debt.
The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo jumped 2.7 percent to 10,672.88. Earlier in the morning, the benchmark reached 10,734.23, its highest intraday level since March 4, 2011. Much of the enthusiasm for Japanese shares comes with the steadily weakening currency, a big help to Japanese companies that sell abroad.
Export shares boomed. Suzuki Motor Corp. soared 7.9 percent. Nikon Corp. advanced 5.2 percent. Toyota Motor Corp. added 4.6 percent.
Elsewhere, however, investor fervor wilted. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index fell 0.8 percent to 23,217.64. South Korea's Kospi lost 0.7 percent to 2,004.94. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.4 percent to 4,723.
Wall Street stocks tumbled on Thursday after a transcript of the last meeting of the U.S. Federal Reserve unveiled a divided opinion among central bankers over how long the Fed should keep buying bonds to support the economy.
The losses came despite a monthly employment survey by payroll provider ADP showing businesses added 215,000 jobs last month, the most in 10 months and much higher than November's total of 148,000.
"Risk assets largely weakened overnight as the less dovish FOMC minutes more than offset earlier gains triggered by a good job report. Indeed, better-than-expected improvement in the job market may fan expectation for an earlier removal of quantitative and monetary easing," said analysts at Credit Agricole CIB in a market commentary.
The Dow Jones industrial average lost 0.2 percent to 13,391.36. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 0.2 percent to 1,459.37. The Nasdaq composite index lost 0.4 percent to 3,100.57.
Investors will keep an eye on the U.S. monthly jobs report due later in the day. The figures often move markets as they are a key indicator for the health of the U.S. economy, which has struggled to accelerate in recent months.
Benchmark oil for February delivery fell 54 cents to $92.38 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract ended the day down 20 cents at $92.92 per barrel on the Nymex on Thursday.
In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3034 from $1.3062 in late trading Thursday. The dollar rose to 87.62 yen from 87.18 yen.
Follow Pamela Sampson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/pamelasampson
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.