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Asian Markets End Mixed After Buffet Rally

CNBC.com with Wires
Wednesday, 13 Feb 2008 | 5:24 AM ET

Asian markets received an early boost after billionaire investor Warren Buffett made an offer to take on $800 billion of U.S. municipal bond risk. But many of the Asian indexes gave back earlier gains to close mixed. Indian and Hong Kong stocks closed firmly higher, while China and Australia fell.

Meanwhile, in Japan, stocks rose as high tech firms such as Tokyo Electron rose, along with blue-chip exporters such as Hitachi.

The Nikkei 225 Average ended 0.4 percent higher at 13,068 points.

Sky Perfect JSAT jumped as much as 7 percent, after the Nikkei business daily reported the firm is in final talks to acquire most shares in Space Communications from the Mitsubishi group for as much as 30 billion yen.

Earnings dominated the newsflow -- Yokohama Rubber and Kikkoman both rose after delivering stronger report cards while Softbrain and Mitsuba slid on disappointing earnings.

A selloff in shares of PetroChina and insurance stocks led the Chinese market lower on its first trading since the Lunar New Year. Investors are expecting payouts for the recent severe weather to hit earnings of the major insurers.

But Hong Kong stocks rose on the back of the Dow's positive close. The Hang Seng Index closed up 1.1 percent.

Australian stocks slipped as investors sold off banking shares, after Commonwealth Bank of Australia reported a disappointing first-half profit.The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index was down 1.2 percent at the market close.

But Coca-Cola Amatil provided some reprieve, rising 4 percent after its earnings report topped market forecasts. In Seoul, the KOSPI failed to stay in positive territory in the afternoon session, after the central bank Governor said inflation would gradually ease this year, adding that the Bank of Korea needed to act carefully in the face of a significant number of uncertainties surrounding the global economy.

The central bank held its overnight call rate target steady at 5.0 percent for the sixth consecutive month, as expected, on Wednesday.

Singapore's Straits Times Index rose by 0.8 percent, led by buying in financials.