Asian Shares Rise But Earnings Worries Persist

Major Asian markets rose on Wednesday, with markets from Japan to China and Australia logging decent gains, but worries about corporate earnings persisted.

Energy stocks were among the gainers in Asia following a rise in crude oil prices, after Saudi Oil Minister Ali Naimi said the country would cut its February production by more than the target set by OPEC in December.

The Nikkei 225 average closed 0.3 percent higher , off its intraday high, as exporters such as Sony and Toyota rebounded after a sharp sell-off the previous day.

Fujitsu shares jumped more than 6 percent at one point, after Toshiba said it is in talks to buy Fujitsu's hard-disk drive business. Toshiba closed 6 percent higher.

Nissan Motor ended 3.5 percent higher on a Reuters report that Chrysler was in talks to sell key assets to Nissan-Renault and auto supplier Magna.

The broader Topix rose 0.7 percent at the finish.

South Korea's KOSPI shares reversed early losses to close the Wednesday session 1.3 percent higher but investors remained cautious ahead of the start of the domestic earnings season on Thursday. Shares in Hynix were down 4.8 percent, but Hyundai Motor jumped over 4 percent.

The Hang Seng Index tracked the region higher to climb 0.3 percent led by Bank of China after Royal Bank of Scotland sold its entire holding in the bank. Bank of China's Hong Kong-listed shares jumped 2.7 percent. British financial powerhouse HSBC however saw its H-shares decline 4.1 percent after Morgan Stanley cut its target price on the stock.

In the rest of Greater China, DRAM stocks like Powerchip and Nanya Technology lifted the market on reports chip prices were gaining from the recent massive output cuts. The Taiwan Weighted Index traded in positive territory throughout the morning but succumbed to selling pressure in the afternoon. The Shanghai Composite Index jumped 3.5 percent.

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Australian shares clawed slightly higher as miners and financials rose. Caltex jumped nearly 9 percent at one point, as it defied the earnings gloom and said its 2008 profit beat its previous forecast. But Wesfarmers tumbled after warning its first-half profit would be knocked by asset writedowns and said dividends may have to be cut. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index gained 0.9 percent at the end of the session.

Singapore's Straits Times Index climbed 0.2 percent but Malaysia's KLCI ended flat.

Jurong Technologies led the decliners in Singapore, nose-diving 55.6 percent, after domestic lender OCBC demanded full repayment of loans to be made within 3 weeks. The bank has threatened to wind up the company if its demands are not met.