Mixed trading was witnessed among the major markets in Asia-Pacific region on Wednesday. Automakers advanced on speculation that the U.S. administration might allow the major U.S. automakers such as the General Motors (GM) and Chrysler to fall, which will increase the demand for their vehicles in the U.S. Expectations from the G20 meeting and worries over deteriorating economic conditions weighed in Australian and Hong Kong markets, dragging them into red.
In Wall Street overnight, the major indices showed strength and ended in positive territory despite weaker economic data and gloomy outlook for the near future. The Dow closed up 86.90 points or 1.2% at 7,609, the Nasdaq closed up 26.79 points or 1.8% at 1,529 and the S&P 500 closed up 10.34 points or 1.3% at 798.
In Asian trading, crude oil declined 2.15% or $1.07 at $48.57 a barrel, in electronic trading. Light sweet crude for May delivery closed at $49.66 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Tuesday, up $1.25 a barrel, after hitting an intraday high of $50.00 and a low of $47.77, amid weaker U.S. dollar, as traders await the weekly inventory report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
In Tokyo, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index gained 2.99% or 242.38 points to 8,532, and the broader Topix Index of all First Section Issues rose 20.16 points to 794.
On the economic front, the Bank of Japan's Tankan Survey revealed on Wednesday that the sentiment among Japan's large manufacturers plummeted at a record rate in the first quarter of 2009, posting a score of -58. That was worse than analyst expectations for -55 following a score of -24 in the previous quarter. It was also worse than the previous record low of -57 in 1975. The large manufacturers' outlook for the June quarter came in at -51. The non-manufacturing index saw a score of -31, worse than forecasts for a -25 after posting -9 in the previous quarter. The outlook for the June quarter came in at -30. Large companies also saw capital expenditure down an annual 6.6% for the fiscal year, while pretax profit is expected to fall 19.7%.
Exporters ended higher on the back of a weaker yen. Canon advanced 2.66%, Sony rose 6.36% and Sharp gained 2.58%. Among automakers, Toyota moved up 4.86% and Honda added 6.70%.
Honda said Tuesday that it will cut North American production further, reduce the pay of its salaried employees in North America and force its hourly workers to take unpaid leave, as vehicle sales continue to plunge. The company will reduce output by 62,000 units over three months starting May 1, 2009.
In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ, Japan's biggest bank, moved up 3.99%, and Sumitomo Mitsui advanced 2.93%, while Resona Holdings lost 0.53%.
Oil-related stocks are trading higher following the overnight gain in crude oil price. Inpex added 3.81%, Nippon Oil gained 4.52% and Showa Shell advanced 3.91%.
Meanwhile, trading house Mitsubishi Corp. gained 5.99%, Sumitomo Corp. added 2.73% and Itochu advanced 3.56%.
In Australia, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 2.4 points, or 0.07% to close at 3,580 and broader All Ordinaries index shed 5.1 points, or 0.14% to close at 3,527.
On the economic front, the Australian Bureau of Statistics' or ABS data showed that retail sales in Australia dropped 2.0% in February on month, marking the largest monthly decline since July 2000.
Further, the ABS also released building approvals data that showed Australian residential housing approvals were up 7.8% on month in February at 10,050, but down 25.5% on year.
Additionally, the Australian Industry Group / PricewaterhouseCoopers Australian Performance of Manufacturing Index came in at 33.4 in March, up from 31.7 in February.
The Department of Employment and Workplace Relations' data showed that Australia's skilled job vacancies in March were down 10.8% on month, posting an index score of 40.7 points, down 6.5% on month. On an annual basis, job vacancies were down 57.9%.
Banking stocks ended mixed. While Commonwealth Bank of Australia lost 0.29% and investment bank Macquarie Group fell 2.40%, ANZ Banking Group gained 0.83%, National Australia Bank advanced 1.09% and Westpac rose 1.73
In the resources sector, index leader BHP Billiton edged up 0.60%, and Rio Tinto decreased 2.07%. Among gold miners, Lihir Gold advanced 2.13%, and Sino Gold edged up 0.19%, while Newcrest Mining fell 0.70%.
Among energy stocks, Woodside rose 0.79%, and Santos gained 2.61%. However, Oil Search slipped down 0.95%.
In the retail sector, David Jones edged up 0.32%, Coles' owner Wesfarmers gained 2.12%, while Woolworths lost 0.48%.
In Hong Kong, the benchmark Hang Seng Index pared all the gains made during the trading session and ended down 56.48 points, or 0.42%, at 13,519.
BOC HongKong gained 9.71%, following the news that the parent company Bank of China will increase its stake in the subsidiary over the next 12 months through market purchases. Among other major banks, HSBC Holdings edged up 0.47% and Bank of East Asia gained 1.47%, while ICBC lost 1.49% and Hang Seng Bank shed 0.32%.
China Unicom fell 8.09% after the second largest mobile carrier by subscribers reported higher profit for the year 2008.
Oil and gas producer, CNOOC, advanced 2.47%. The company reported flat growth in the second half of last year, as lower margins offset lower crude oil prices during the period. Aluminum Corp. of China, or CHALCO, gained 6.29%.
China-related stocks ended mixed. While China Mercantile Holdings gained 5.27%, China Resources lost 3.33%.
The benchmark KOSPI Index in South Korea advanced 2.25% of 27.10 points to close at 1,233.
Manufacturers' sentiment rose for the second quarter of 2009 rose amid expectations that the economy will stabilize in the country. According to a report released by the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, business survey index (BSI) for manufacturing companies rose to 95 for the second quarter, compared to 61 in the first quarter.
In another report, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy revealed that trade surplus for March 2009 reached a record US$4.6 billion, attributing sharp decline in imports and increase in number of ships exported as the primary reason. The report noted that exports declined 21.2% to US$28.3 billion, and imports were down 36% to $23.7 billion
Among the automakers, Hyundai Motor gained 4.68%, Kia Motor advanced 4.92% and Ssangyong Motor rose 4.17%
Financials are also trading higher. KB Financial Group, the holding firm of Kookmin Bank, gained 4.55%, Shinhan Financial advanced 4.67% and Woori Finance added 5.13%.
Shipbuilders ended mixed. Hyundai Heavy Industries moved up 2.81%, and Samsung Heavy Industries advanced 2.54%. However, Daewoo Shipping lost 0.70%
Oil-related stocks are moving to the upside. SK Holdings advanced 4.19% and S-Oil rose 3.02%. Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics edged up 0.35%.
Technology stocks are trading mixed. While LG Electronics advanced 3.94%, and LG Display gained 2.50%, Hynix Semiconductor shed 0.81%.
Among the other major markets, China's Shanghai Composite Index rose 1.47% or 34.80 points to 2,408, Indonesia's Jakarta Composite Index advanced 27.67 points, or 1.93% to 1,462, Singapore's Strait Times Index edged up 2.27 points, or 0.13% to 1,702, and Taiwan's Weighted Index added 103.61 points or 1.99% to 5,314.
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