Asia-Pacific Markets

Asian Markets Are Mixed, But Financials Edge Higher

Asian markets were mixed Tuesday after Goldman Sachs' stronger-than-expected profit signaled the worst could be behind for U.S. banks, emboldening investors to chase after riskier assets.

Goldman Sachs surprised investors after the close on Monday by posting stronger-than-expected quarterly resultsa day early, and announced a $5 billion public offering of common equity.

However, there are also plenty of doubts about Asia's future, given that some analysts believe the full brunt of the deep global recession has yet to be reflected. Singapore eased monetary policy to effectively devalue its currency after posting its worst quarterly economic contractionever. Asian automaker shares took a hit on fears General Motors was being pushed into bankruptcy by the U.S. government

The U.S. dollar was steady against the yen  and edged up against the euro . Oil prices fell more than 4 percent, below $50 a barrel, after the International Energy Agency slashed its forecast for oil demand.

Japan's Nikkei 225 Average slipped 0.9 percent as worries over a GM bankruptcy grew. Investors locked in profits on auto shares, while banks rose after better-than-expected results from U.S. peers. Retailer Aeon, which is set to report full-year results after the close, fell 4.8 percent after its unit Talbots posted a deeper-than-expected quarterly loss and offered staid sales projections. 

Seoul shares ended firmer, with STX Group shares up on China funding news and banking issues gaining on solid numbers from Goldman Sachs, while new threats from North Koreahad little impact on markets.

Australian stocks closed up 2.2 percent as optimism for decent quarterly results from U.S. banks lifted financials such as


shares finished 2 percent higher. The airline lost as much as 11 percent at one point after

slashing its profit forecast

. Top bank

National Australia Bank

rose 2.8 percent, and Westpac was up 3.3 percent.

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In markets still trading, Hong Kong shares climbed 2.9 percent, staying close to a three-month high after a long Easter holiday, buoyed by hopes for stabilisation in the financial sector and
reassuring economic data from China. Among the big winners, BOC Hong Kong shot up 8.2 percent after the Hong Kong-based lender's parent increased its holding in the bank to 66.06 percent from 65.87 percent earlier this month. The mainland's second-largest lender by market value, Bank of China promised in March to increase its stake in its overseas flagship
through secondary-market purchases over the next 12 months.

Singapore's Straits Times Index was down half a percent after data released by the government showed the economy contracted 11.5 percent year-on-yearfor the first quarter. Shares of Singapore Press Holdings fell as much as 3.8 percent after the firm said second-quarter net profit fell 12.6 percent due to a decline in advertisements. Oversea-Chinese Banking downgraded SPH to "hold" from its previous "buy" rating on Tuesday, saying earnings from core operations declined at a faster-than-expected pace.

China's Shanghai Composite Index edged higher in heavy trade, with coal and non-ferrous metal shares hit by profit-taking as the market paused after a three-day rally, although auto shares outperformed.