A pedestrian walks past an electronics stock indicator at the window of a securities company in Tokyo. Picture: AFP/ MARTIN BUREAU
A pedestrian walks past an electronics stock indicator at the window of a securities company in Tokyo. Picture: AFP/ MARTIN BUREAU

Japanese stocks recovered slightly on Wednesday after suffering their worst finish in almost two years, but other Asian markets were mixed after President Donald Trump marked Christmas with a renewed attack on the central bank.

Tokyo plummeted to a 20-month low on Tuesday on fears over the US economy and a government shutdown. That came after a brutal run on Wall Street that saw US stocks sink for a fourth straight session.

As the US stock market looked on track for its worst December since the Great Depression, Trump on Tuesday berated the Federal Reserve for its stewardship of the economy, a regular recent complaint.

However Tokyo opened higher on Wednesday though the gains were pared slightly during the morning session. Chinese stocks opened slightly lower, while Seoul also dropped.

Financial markets in Australia, Hong Kong and New Zealand are closed for a public holiday.

Markets have been roiled by ongoing uncertainty in the US, with Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin berated for holding a call with the six biggest US banks and then reporting on Twitter that the six CEOs have "ample liquidity" available.

Investors were also unnerved by weekend news reports that Trump had asked about the possibility of firing Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, accounts that Mnuchin said Trump has denied.

'Panic mode'

Analysts said investors had been spooked by Trump's unpredictable behaviour.

"The markets are in panic mode that the US economy is tanking, expecting the benefit of Trump's fiscal stimulus will falter in 2019," said Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trade at OANDA.

"After all, it was the US market that was carrying the weight of global risk sentiment on its shoulder. If the US economy turns south, global capital markets are in for a world of hurt."

However Norio Miyagawa, senior economist at Mizuho Securities, said that despite the recent market rout, there has been no clear sign of a recession in the US.

"Our judgement is that the US economy remains solid at the moment" though investors need pay attention to the possible impact of US trade rows with other countries on financial markets and business outlooks, he said in a note.

The euro was moving narrowly against the dollar on Wednesday.

"The jury is out on this one, US political uncertainty vs weak EU economy," said Innes.

"Most days I would favour the weak EU economy, but the swamp and numerous political sinkholes in Washington are too hard to ignore," he said in a note.

AFP