Business

Asia stock indexes are mixed after a week of volatility

Asian stocks were mixed after a week of extreme volatility in the world's biggest markets.

Japan's main Nikkei index closed down 0.2%, South Korea's Kospi lost 1.3% but Hong Kong's Hang Seng was up 0.13% at the end of its session.

Stocks had gained in early trading after US jobless data buoyed shares and eurozone debt concerns eased.

But investors remain wary of investing while deep fears about eurozone and US debts remain.

Those fears have lead to sharp dips in shares over the past week, particularly in banking stocks.

Overnight, four eurozone countries - France, Italy, Spain and Belgium - banned the short-selling of some financial stocks in an attempt to stabilise markets.

Short-selling involves investors selling stocks they do not own in the expectation they will drop in price before buying them back and pocketing the difference.

The last time major Western countries made a similar move was in 2008 after the collapse of Lehman Brothers prompted the US and the UK to curb the practice.

Temporary relief?

Earlier in the week, South Korean authorities also banned short-selling of shares to try and stem losses. South Korea's Kospi has seen some of the biggest falls globally in the past week.

Its the latest in a series of moves by policymakers in Europe and the US to allay fear in the markets.

On Monday, the European Central Bank said it will buy bonds from Italy and Spain after emergency talks on the debt crisis.

Following that, on Wednesday the US Federal Reserve said it would keep interest rates at current levels until at least 2013.

"The short-term reactions of governments in Europe and the US have sort of added a sense of calm that wasn't there last week," said Arjuna Mahendran, chief Asia strategist at HSBC in Singapore.

But some investors are sceptical about the effectiveness of the steps taken by governments and central banks to prevent a loss of confidence.

"These are the people who got us into these situations and now we're realizing they don't know what they are doing. The market's finally catching up," Jim Rogers of Rogers Holdings told the BBC's Asia Business Report.

US gains

Wall Street's main Dow Jones index ended up 3.9% on Thursday, helped by data showing a fall in the number of unemployment claimants.

In Europe, indexes closed higher after French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said they would meet to discuss eurozone financial governance.

The UK's FTSE 100 ended up 3.1%. Germany's Dax added 3.3% and France's Cac rose 2.5%.