Markets See Cautious Rise But Japan Ends Lower

Asian stocks rose cautiously Friday with markets modestly higher with Australia finishing just below the 6,000 level. But Japan closed in negative territory on profit-taking after spending most of the session in the black.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 Average snapped a four-day winning streak on Friday to close down by 0.23 percent as investors moved to lock in profits and exporters such as Canon were sold on a slightly stronger yen, though the benchmark still saw its strongest week in 3 months. Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha and other shippers buoyed the market, extending gains on continuing demand for iron ore into China that helped push the Baltic Exchange's chief sea freight index to a record high.

Australian shares gained 0.7 percent, approaching the 6,000 mark for the first time in over
three months, with BHP Billiton adding 1.5 percent on fresh speculation of Chinese interest in the firm.

Rob Griffith

Seoul shares inched up, extending recent gains to hit a new 2008 closing high led by shipbuilders, but the KOSPI gave up much of its early advance on losses by tech shares such as LG Display. The KOSPI closed 0.17 percent higher after a 0.7 percent gain in early trade that helped it turn positive on the year, fully recouping the 19 percent drop that brought it to its mid-March low.

Hong Kong stocks rose, tracking gains on Wall Street, with petrochemical stocks PetroChina and Sinopec leading the blue chips higher. But China's top power generator maker, Dongfang Electric, tumbled as much as 20 percent after it said the earthquake in China had seriously damaged its production. The stock was down 11 percent before the lunch break.

Singapore's Straits Times Index was almost 1 percent higher, with Singapore Airlines and DBS Group on the rise.

China's Shanghai Composite Index was lower with shares of firms from earthquake-hit Sichuan Province mixed while Bank of Communications slipped as 13.2 billion of its A shares emerged from a lock-up period. PetroChina, the index's biggest heavyweight, was mostly steady as trade resumed after a suspension on Thursday due to a shareholders' meeting.