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Banks, Exporters Lift Asian Markets

CNBC.com with Wires
Tuesday, 19 Feb 2008 | 5:06 AM ET

Asian stocks ended mostly in the green Tuesday as investors, sought undervalued bank shares and exporters that could gain from a modestly stronger U.S. dollar. Japan, South Korea and Australia all closed stronger.

Unrelenting supply problems kept the heat under commodities prices, with oil above $96 a barrel and platinum, a precious metal also used in car exhaust systems, powering to a record high for the 14th day in a row.

U.S. markets were closed on Monday, but European traders put some faith back in banks after Britain's nationalization of Northern Rock. The DJ STOXX bank sector index rose 2.5 percent, helping FTSEurofirst 300 index to close up 2 percent.

Japan's Nikkei 225 Average closed higher as Itochu and other trading firms rose on strong metals prices, with buying of big-name exporters boosting the market overall amid thin trade. Banks climbed in the wake of their European peers, which rose on reports that Qatar has bought shares in Credit Suisse and plans to spend as much as $15 billion on European and U.S. bank stocks over the next year. Toshiba was slightly lower following a 6 percent gain in the previous session after a company source told Reuters it planned to abandon its HD DVD format. The company will announce plans to cease production and sales of HD DVD players later in the session, the Nikkei business daily reported on Tuesday.

South Korea's KOSPI gained 1.4 percent to a one-month
closing high as lenders tracked firmer European peers, while Samsung Securities jumped a day after announcing a surprise surge in January earnings. Shinhan Financial, South Korea's second-biggest lender, added 1.63 percent.

Australian shares climbed 1.1 percent, ending two straight sessions of losses, as investors snapped up banking stocks
battered in the previous session, and as strong metal prices lifted top miners. Despite the recovery in banking stocks, analysts said investors are likely to remain wary of the sector given concerns that earnings may be crimped by higher provisions and funding costs amid the global credit crisis. Financials recovered from a sell off in the previous session. Australia and New Zealand Banking Group rebounded slightly after losing 6 percent the previous session.

Hong Kong stocks jumped 1.5 percent, tracking strong Asian markets, as Bank of China surged after its chairman said the bank had set aside enough provisions to cover its exposure to subprime credit. Bank of China chairman Xiao Gang also said the Chinese lender would report "marked" profit growth for 2007.

Singapore's Straits Times Index climbed 0.5 percent with blue chips leading the gainers.

Chinese stocks ended 2.1 percent higher, extending a modest rebound that began on Friday, although banks slipped as inflation data fueled concern about monetary policy. The government announced that consumer price inflation rose in January to an 11-year high of 7.1 percent from 6.5 percent in December.

India's Bombay Sensex Index ended 0.2 percent higher.