Asian Markets End Mostly Higher in Choppy Trading

Asian stocks closed mostly higher following choppy trading conditions Monday, with markets seesawing between the black and red. Japan managed to finish higher despite the shaky session.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 Average climbed 0.7 percent to a nearly five-month closing high as Mizuho Financial Group and other financials surged on expectations of higher earnings and growing optimism that the credit crisis is fading. Additional upward impetus came from Sony and other exporters rising on a slightly weaker yen, with money also flowing into stocks from the Japanese government bond market after JGB futures plunged.

Seoul shares closed lower after oscillating throughout the session, with higher-than-expected inflation data driving down shares but solid domestic export figures lending the index some
support. Exporters such as Hynix Semiconductor closed weaker.


Australian shares edged up 0.1 percent, buoyed by gains in resource firms such as BHP Billiton on strong commodity prices, though ongoing worries about rising inflation pressured rate-sensitive banks.

Hong Kong stocks jumped 1.2 percent as China Mobile recovered from a recent slide sparked by competition fears, while Chinese oil producer CNOOC rose as oil prices held steady. Chinese financial stocks also gained, tracking a rebound in their A shares listed in Shanghai, with insurer China Life and Ping An both advancing. Mainland lenders ICBC and Bank of China also moved forward.

Singapore's Straits Times Index closed 0.3 percent lower, despite a positive start to the session where banks such as United Overseas Bank and DBS Group gained ground.

China's Shanghai Composite Index was up 0.8 percent, led for a second straight day by power producers and oil refiners amid speculation that the government might soon allow domestic electricity charges and gasoline prices to rise. Huaneng Power surged over 4 percent after gaining 8.41 percent on Friday, while top oil refiner Sinopec rose over 2 percent after Friday's climb of 3.12 percent. Traders reported talk in the market that to ease pressure on the bottom lines of power producers and refiners, and to curb excessive energy use, authorities would permit those companies to raise prices -- though so far there has been no clear sign that the government will do this, especially with inflation near 11-year highs.