US, Japan sentiment lifts Asian stocks

Friday, 28 January 2011 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

HONG KONG, (AFP) - Asian stock markets edged higher on Thursday with Tokyo gaining thanks to impressive 2010 trade data and higher metals prices lifting Chinese resource stocks, traders said.

Tokyo’s Nikkei index was up 0.76 percent in the afternoon, Seoul’s KOSPI had gained 0.28 percent, Shanghai’s Composite index rose 1.08 percent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was up 0.35 percent. Sydney’s S&P/ASX 200 was flat.

Tokyo took its cue from the United States, where markets edged up after the Federal Reserve said it was sticking to ultra-low interest rates and committed to continued bond purchasing. Stocks were also buoyed by the euro’s strength, which helps Japanese exporters.

Traders were awaiting earnings reports from major Japanese companies, with shares in Mitsubishi Heavy Industries surging on expectations of bullish results.

Data showed Japan’s trade surplus more than doubled in 2010 as exports grew 24.4 percent to stage their first annual rise in three years, with shipments to China at a record high.

The news came despite concerns that dogged the market last year about the threat to exports from a strong yen.

While resource stocks climbed in China, the mood was muted amid expectations of an interest rate hike after the government said Wednesday it would raise the minimum downpayment on second-home purchases to 60 percent from 50 percent.

“The measures will lower the expectations for property sales volumes” and hurt investment sentiment, Jacky Zhang, an analyst from Capital Securities, told Dow Jones Newswires.

The dollar eased against the yen after the US Federal Reserve announced it would keep its stimulus measures in place.

The dollar fell to 82.04 yen in Tokyo morning trade from 82.16 yen in New York late Wednesday.

The euro edged down to $1.3692 from $1.3708 late Wednesday in New York. The single currency rose to 112.54 yen from 112.34 Wednesday.

In New York on Wednesday, the Dow crept up 0.07 percent, the broader S&P 500 rose 0.42 percent and the tech-rich Nasdaq added 0.74 percent.

The blue-chip Dow made a brief foray above the symbolic threshold of 12,000 for the first time since June 2008, before ending at 11,985.44.

Crude prices rose in Asian trade thanks to the Federal Reserve’s commitment to stimulate the US economy.

New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for March delivery, was up 27 cents at $87.60 per barrel and Brent North Sea crude for March rose 15 cents to $98.06.

Gold opened at $1,343.00-$1,344.00 an ounce in Hong Kong, up from Wednesday’s close of $1,335.50-$1,336.50.

In other markets:

Manila rose 1.50 percent, or 58.85 points, to 3,990.49.

San Miguel soared 11 percent to 178 pesos and Metropolitan Bank gained 3.8 percent to 65.30.

Wellington fell 0.11 percent, or 3.79 points, to 3,350.93.

Air New Zealand fell 0.7 percent to NZ$1.52 as investors worried about news of the government’s plan to sell some of its 76 percent stake in the national carrier.

Discount retailer The Warehouse ended down 0.5 percent at NZ$3.69 and children’s clothing retailer Pumpkin Patch shed 7.6 percent to NZ$1.45.