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Asia Ends Up; KOSPI Hits Fresh Closing High

CNBC.com with Reuters
Wednesday, 12 Jan 2011 | 4:24 AM ET

Asian stocks rose on Wednesday as global markets halted recent losing streaks and posted modest gains on the back of solid earnings reports and positive broker comments, while investors await the outcome of debt issuance in the euro zone.

The FTSE CNBC Asia 100Index edged up 1.1 percent.

The Nikkei 225 ended flat, backing away from an eight-month high hit early as traders locked in profits, but sentiment remains strong as upbeat U.S. earnings and a softer yen spurred foreign investors to continue to add Japanese stocks to their portfolios.

Financial shares were higher on foreign buying, market participants said, while trading houses climbed after rallies in oil, gold and other commodities prices.

Resona Holdings said on Friday that it would go ahead with a share offering to raise about $8 billion, taking advantage of the recently buoyant stock market to make progress on its repayment of government bailout funds.

The benchmark Nikkei ended up 0.02 percent or 2.12 points at 10,512.80, after rising early in the session to 10,576.51, its highest intraday level since May 13, 2010. The broader Topix added 0.3 percent to 929.64.

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Japan's biggest bank by assets, gained 3.6 percent, while Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group added 2.7 percent and Mizuho Financial Group
rose 3.1 percent.

The weaker yen helped exporters outperform, with Toyota Motor gaining 1.3 percent to 3,500 yen and Honda Motor rising 1.4 percent to 3,310 yen.

Toshiba gained 0.4 percent in heavy trade after Citigroup Global Markets Japan reiterated its "buy" rating and hiked the electronics maker's target share price to 670 yen from 600 yen, citing strong earning prospects in nuclear power.

KOSPI Hits Fresh Closing High

Seoul shares ended at an all-time closing high on Wednesday, lifted by firm gains in memory chip makers and crude refiners, but insurers weighed.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) closed up 0.32 percent at 2,094.95 points.

Memory chip issues posted firm gains, helped by a 1.4 percent gain in the U.S. Philadelphia Semiconductor Index . Samsung Electronics, the world's No.1 memory chip maker, rose 1.9 percent. Hynix Semiconductor, the world's No.2, advanced 3.7 percent.

Insurers took a breather after recent gains, with Samsung Life down 3.2 percent and Korea Life Insurance off 3.7 percent.

Samsung Life has risen 6.3 percent so far this year, and Korea Life 4.5 percent, compared with the KOSPI's 1.8 percent gain.

Crude oil refiners rose after U.S. oil prices jumped 2 percent to top $91 per barrel, pointing to firmer pricing of crude oil products.

SK Energy, the country's top crude oil refiner, rose 4 percent and S-Oil advanced 1.07 percent.

Seafood processors rallied as the rapid spread of foot-and-mouth disease and avian influenza pointed to a jump in seafood consumption. Sajo Oyang and Dongwon Fisheries jumped by the daily 15 percent limit.

Miners Lift Australia; Queensland Rains Hit Caltex

Australian stocks ended up 0.3 percent, with miners shoring up the market against the impact of devastating floods in Queensland, as analysts hike their commodity price forecasts.

Most of the day's big losers were companies hurt by the floods, which a member of the Reserve Bank of Australia's board estimated could cut up to 1 percentage point from the nation's economic growth.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index ended up 13.5 points to 4,724.20 points.

Refiner Caltex tumbled 5.6 percent after saying an unplanned shutdown last week of its Lytton refinery in Brisbane, due to an outage caused by heavy rain, would hurt its earnings by A$5-A$10 million.

Mining services and products provider Industrea jumped after saying only one of its contracts was affected at a mine hit by flooding and that would not hurt its earnings much.

Airline Virgin Blue fell 3.4 percent to A$0.430 on talk of hordes of families canceling holidays at Queensland's popular beach resorts due to worst floods in the state in half a century.

Port and rail operator Asciano sank to an eight-month low after warning that raging floods in Queensland were hurting its coal transport business in Queensland and New South Wales.

Shanghai, Hong Kong Advance

Greater China markets advanced with the Hang Seng Index finishing up 1.54 percent at 24,125.61 and the Shanghai Composite closing 0.6 percent higher at 2,821.3 points.

E-commerce firm Alibaba.com rallied to a near six-month high on talk its parent firm and Baidu will invest $100 million dollars into Sina's micro-blogging product.

Geely shares are also jumping after saying its auto sales rose 25.5 percent in December, lifting annual sales above the full-year target of 400,000 units.

In Southeast Asia, Malaysia's benchmark KLCI rose 0.2 percent and Singapore's Straits Times Index eked out a 0.1 percent gain.

Coal miner Straits Asia Resources jumped as much as 9.8 percent to a 41-month high after it got a license, which would lead to new coal mining rights in Indonesia.