Asian Stocks End Slightly Higher but Caution Remains
Asian stocks ended slightly higher on Tuesday but investors stayed cautious after economic data from China showed a rise in July industrial output that fell short of expectations. This also followed a lower close in the U.S. as investors took a breather after a four-week rally.
Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 ended at a 10-month closing high, up 0.6 percent while the broader Topix rose 0.4 percent. A strong earthquake that jolted Tokyo and surrounding areas Tuesday morning, boosted construction shares like Obayashi on hopes of reconstruction efforts. Major manufacturers including Panasonic, Sony and Fujitsu said they had not seen damage to their factories in the area of the quake.
Analysts said investors shrugged off news from the Bank of Japanand Chinese economic data and instead focused on individual stocks with specific news as the overall market lacked convincing moving factors and a direction.
Nippon Sheet Glass, a major glass maker, surged 9.2 percent on a positive brokerage report but exporters like Honda Motor, TDK and Tokyo Electron weighed on the index as the yen gained strength against the U.S. dollar. Toshiba shares chalked up gains on news it will make Blue-ray disc players by the end of 2009 to end its format war with competitors.
In South Korea, the KOSPI was rangebound throughout the session but managed to eke out a 0.2 percent gain at the close. Investors hardly reacted to the Bank of Korea's decision to leave interest rates steady at a record low of 2 percent -- a move that was widely expected. Meantime, SK Energy tumbled 2.4 percent after it delayed plans to build an oil production facility, but Ssangyong Motor raced up 14.8 percent for a fourth consecutive session, after the end of a prolonged and violent strike late last week and reports Tuesday employees were returning to work. Ssangyong also said in a filing to the Korea Exchange that its suppliers had withdrawn a bankruptcy request to recoup their debt.
Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained strength in the second half of the session to close 0.7 percent higher. Shares of JB Hi-Fi surged 8.6 percent after it reported a 45 percent rise in full-year profit, while Flight Centre soared 21.6 percent after the travel retailer said its July performance was encouraging thanks to cheaper airfares and holiday deals.
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Greater China shares closed in positive territory after a mixed session with the Hang Seng Index breaching the 21,000 mark for the first time since September 2008, on hopes China would take more steps to bolster the economy. Shares in Tencent and bourse operator HKEx both climbed ahead of their quarterly earnings.
The Shanghai Composite crept up 0.5 percent at the finish despite Chinese economic data showing a rise in industrial output that fell short of expectationsin July. China Eastern Airlines rose over 2 percent in Shanghai, after the carrier said it had swung to a net profit in the first half of the year, helped largely by fuel-hedging gains.
Singapore's Straits Times resumed trade after a long weekend to jump 1.9 percent at the close as investors were pleased with the citystate's final GDP reading showing the economy grew by a seasonally-adjusted 20.7 percent in the second-quarter from the previous three months. This was stronger than an initial estimate of 20.4% growth.