The major markets across the Asia-Pacific region ended in positive territory on Friday, extending the gains on expectations that the worst had been overcome and the global economy, though still weak, is showing a slowdown in the downward momentum. Positive closing by Wall Street stocks for the third day in succession following the promise of about $1.1 trillion in loans and guarantees by the G20 leaders in London and a relaxation in the mark-to-market accounting rules for banks, also influenced the Asian markets. Automakers, resources and financials were the major gainers. However, profit taking at higher levels ahead of the weekend limited the gains, with the major markets closing well below the day's high.
On Thursday, the Dow closed up 216.48 points or 2.8% at 7,978, the Nasdaq closed up 51.03 points or 3.3% at 1,604 and the S&P 500 closed up 23.30 points or 2.9% at 834.
In Asian trading, crude oil ended down $0.73 at $51.91 a barrel in electronic trading. Light sweet crude for May delivery closed up $4.25 at $52.64 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Thursday, after hitting an intra-day low of $48.45 and a high of $52.87 on improved demand prospects amid hopes the G-20 summit will help pull the world out of the economic crisis.
In Tokyo, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed at 8,750, up 30.06 points, or 0.34%, and the broader Topix index of all First Section Issues added 4.67 points to 831.
Automakers led the gains on the weaker local currency. Toyota Motor surged up 7.25%, Nissan Motor advanced 5.94% and Honda Motor added 1.65%.
Exporters also ended higher. Canon advanced 1.99%; Sharp added 0.72% and Sony Corp. gained 3.23%. Among trading houses, Mitsubishi Corp. advanced 4.61%, Sumitomo Corp. gained 1.88% and Itochu added 1.54%.
Financials ended weaker in late trading on profit taking. Mitsubishi UFJ declined 0.38%, Mizuho Financial lost 1.44%, Sumitomo Mitsui shed 2.92% and Resona Holdings declined 2.72%. However, Brokerage Nomura Holdings bucked the trend and advanced 4.80%.
Oil stocks ended mixed. While Inpex declined 1.25% and Showa Shell lost 2.14%, Nippon Oil edged up 0.20%.
In Australia, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index rose 1.54%, or 56.60 points, to 3,736 and the broader All Ordinaries index advanced 52.90 points to 3,674.
On the economic front, the latest Australian Industry Group - Commonwealth Bank Performance of Services Index or PSI data revealed that Australian services sector activity remained weak in March. The seasonally adjusted Australian PSI rose by 3.4 points to 35.6 in March, still well below the 50.0 points level separating expansion from contraction.
Resource stocks advanced after a measure of six commodities advanced 2.9% on the London Metals Exchange. Positive economic data from China, where the Purchasing Managers' Index rose to a seasonally adjusted 52.4 in March from 49 in February also propped up resource stocks on expectations of rising demand from China, the major export destination for Australian resources.
Financials gained on expectations that change in accounting rules might improve the profits of the banks. Among banking stocks, Commonwealth Bank of Australia advanced 2.11%, ANZ Banking Group surged up 5.45%, and National Australia Bank advanced 5.48%. Westpac rose 3.02%, and investment bank Macquarie Group gained 4.97%.
In the resources sector, index leader BHP Billiton gained 3.68%, and Rio Tinto advanced 2.93%. Among energy stocks, Woodside moved up 1.79%, Oil Search rose 4.33%, and Santos gained 3.38%.
Gold miners, however, declined after gold closed lower on Thursday. Lihir Gold lost 6.60%, Sino Gold slipped 0.36%, and Newcrest Mining declined 7.11%.
In the retail sector, David Jones lost 1.05%, Woolworths slipped 0.68%, and Coles' owner Wesfarmers decreased 1.42%.
The benchmark Hang Seng Index ended 0.16% or 23.72 points, higher at 14,546, having pared most of the gains on profit taking.
Property related stocks advanced. Henderson Land advanced 4.93%, Sino Land gained 3.04%, New World Development added 1.50% and SHK Properties added 1.27%. However, Hang Lung Properties declined 3.81%.
Resource stocks also ended higher. Aluminum Corporation of China, or CHALCO, gained 3.09%, CNOOC advanced 1.22% and PetroChina moved up 1.09%.
Financials ended mixed on profit taking. HSBC Holdings edged up 0.10%, while Hang Seng Bank declined 1.62%. Other major banks also ended lower on profit taking.
Insurance stocks also ended mixed. While Ping An advanced 0.29%, China Life lost 0.74%.
In Seoul, the benchmark KOSPI Index ended at 1,284, up 6.78 points, or 0.53%.
Financials ended higher. KB Financial Group gained 2.72%, Shinhan Financial advanced 4.14% and Woori Finance added 1.36%.
Oil-related stocks also ended higher. SK Holdings gained 1.70% and S-Oil edged up 0.34%.
Among the automakers, while Hyundai Motor gained 1.32% and Kia Motor advanced 4.01%, Ssangyong Motor declined 1.15%.
Among technology stocks, Hynix Semiconductor moved down 0.79% and LG Electronics slipped 0.20%. However, LG Display gained 0.33%. On the other hand, market heavyweight Samsung Electronics moved up 0.34%.
Shipbuilders ended weak. Hyundai Heavy Industries lost 0.24%, Samsung Heavy Industries decreased 0.92%, and Daewoo Shipping moved down 1.11%.
Among the other markets, China's Shanghai Composite Index lost 5.51 points or 0.23% to 2,420, Singapore's Strait Times Index gained 17.53 points, or 0.97% to 1,821, Indonesia's Jakarta Composite Index added 0.63 points or 0.04% to 1,500, and Taiwan's Weighted Index advanced 55.85 points or 1.02% to 5,530.
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