Asia-Pacific Markets

Asian Stocks End Mixed, Australia Sets New Record High

Asian markets finished the week mixed Friday with Australia setting a new record as the surge in oil and commodity prices boosted shares of resource producers. But Japanese stocks lost steam after yesterday's advance and finished the day weaker.

The U.S. dollar hovered near a record low as this week's string of poor U.S. economic reports showing a further deterioration in the housing market have reinforced expectations for further Federal Reserve interest rate cuts.

But hopes for looser monetary policy in the United States combined with signs of solid growth elsewhere have prompted investors to shift funds into stocks and commodities, with U.S. crude oil prices climbing back near a record peak of $83.90

A slew of economic reports in Japan showed consumer spending and industrial production were stronger than expected in August, while factory activity contracted at a slightly slower pace in September despite the credit market turmoil.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 Average closed lower in thin trade, to end the first half of the fiscal year down 2.9%, as Mitsubishi Estate slipped after recent sharp gains. But Mitsubishi Motor shot up after it tripled its group operating profit forecast for the first half while Canon extended gains on news about a possible additional share buyback.

South Korea's KOSPI ended flat as chipmakers rose on easing oversupply worries after Hynix Semiconductor's decision to stop selling in DRAM memory chip spot markets, but caution over record oil and a slowing U.S. economy also weighed.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 0.5% to set another record closing peak, as resource stocks such as BHP Billiton and Woodside Petroleum got a boost from strong metal and oil prices.

Hong Kong blue chips rose and China plays jumped 1.7% amid massive turnover, as investors snapped up commodity stocks on the back of high crude and metal prices and chased underplayed China power producers. Newcomer and Chinese property developer Sino-Ocean Land Holdings, the morning's most active stock, settled 43% higher.

Singapore's Straits Times Index ened 0.2% lower, but shares of China-based companies such as Synear Food and China Hongxing Sports gained after a launch of Chinese global stock fund led market speculation that these stocks will be candidates for other soon-to-be launched funds.

The Shanghai Composite Index was the best performer out of the Asian markets, finishing 2.6% higher, as a spectacular listing by China Oilfield Services and the return of funds that had been frozen by Shenhua Energy's huge IPO buoyed sentiment.