The major markets across the Asia-Pacific region ended in positive territory on Friday, taking cues from Wall Street, where the major indices ended in positive territory on increasing confidence that the downturn in the economy has slowed down and the economy can begin to recover sooner-than-expected. Profit taking by investors trimmed the gains with the markets in Australia and Hong Kong ending nearly flat, while the South Korean market ended in negative territory. The underlying trend seems to be cautiously optimistic among investors despite the downward risk for the economies remaining relatively higher.
On Wall Street, the Dow closed up 95.81 points or 1.2% at 8,125, the Nasdaq closed up 43.64 points or 2.7% at 1,670 and the S&P 500 closed up 13.24 points or 1.6% at 865.
In Asian trading, crude oil ended down $0.23 at $49.75 a barrel in electronic trading. Light sweet crude for May delivery ended at $49.98 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, up $0.73 for the session, amid choppy trading.
In Tokyo, The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index added 152.32 points or 1.70% to 8,908 and the broader Topix Index of all First Section Issues advanced 13.53 points or 1.60% to 846.
On the economic front, Japan's service sector output was down a seasonally adjusted 0.8% month-over-month in February, posting an index score of 105.6, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said on Friday. The decline was worse than the 0.7% drop expected by economists and follows a 0.4% gain in January, a revised 1.6% decline in December and a 1.1% fall in November.
In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ, Japan's biggest bank, gained 1.58%, Mizuho Financial advanced 2.60%, Sumitomo Mitsui rose 3.75%, and Resona Holdings added 1.52%. Brokerage Nomura Holdings surged 4.30%.
Among exporters, Canon gained 1.84%, Sony surged up 5.93% and Sharp soared 9.00%. Toshiba Corp reported an operating loss of around 250 billion yen for the year March 31 compared to its previous estimate of a loss of 280 billion yen. The company's shares ended higher by 4.40%. Automaker Toyota advanced 2.96% and Honda Motor gained 4.63%.
Oil-related stocks ended mixed. While Inpex slipped 0.71% and Showa Shell shed 0.77%, Nippon Oil bucked the trend and ended higher by 0.77%. Trading house Mitsubishi Corp. gained 2.27%, Sumitomo Corp. advanced 2.65% and Itochu Corp rose 2.28%.
Retailer Aeon Co. has set up a line of credit totaling 200 billion yen with several financial institutions, expanding its sources of funds amid capital market instability. The company also refinanced 175.4 billion yen in loans that had been due in the fiscal year ended February 28. The company's shares are gaining 2.88%.
In Australia, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index added 1 point or 0.03% to 3,778 and the broader All Ordinaries Index added 2.5 points, or 0.07%, to close at 3,728.
On the economic front, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that its import price index decreased 2.8% in the March quarter. The fall was driven mainly by lower prices for petroleum and related products as well as fertilizers. The Bureau's export price index fell 4.6% in the March quarter. The decline was attributed to lower prices for metalliferous ores and metal scrap, non-ferrous metals as well as petroleum and related materials. For the full year to the March 2009 quarter, the import price index was up 14.6%, while the export price index was up 42.8%.
In the mining sector, BHP Billiton moved up 0.60% and rival Rio Tinto rose 1.84%. However, gold miners are trading sharply lower after gold dropped to a ten-day low overnight. Lihir Gold lost 4.75%, Newcrest Mining fell 5.78%, and Sino Gold declined 5.19%
Banks ended mixed on profit taking at higher levels. Commonwealth Bank of Australia gained 0.65%, and National Australia Bank added 0.95%,, but Australia and NZ Bank slipped 0.65% and Westpac closed down 0.79%.
In the retail sector, Harvey Norman gained 1.42%, Coles' owner Wesfarmers advanced 3.41% and Woolworths rose 1.17%, but David Jones declined 1.31%
Woolworths said its sales for the third quarter, adjusted for Easter, increased by 6.5% to A$12.3 billion. Excluding petrol sales, sales rose 8.3%. The company forecasts full year sales, excluding petrol sales, to grow in the upper single digits.
Oil-related stocks ended lower. Woodside Petroleum declined 1.71%, Oil Search lost 3.75% and Santos fell 2.66%.
In South Korea, the benchmark KOSPI Index closed at 1,329, down 7.72 points, or 0.58% as investors preferred to take profits after a recent rally.
Among financials, Shinhan Financial lost 1.88% and Woori Finance fell 1.51%, while KB Financial ended unchanged from previous close.
Technology stocks ended higher. Hynix Semiconductor surged up 8.68%, LG Electronics added 0.96% and LG Display gained 0.96%. Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics advanced 2.75%. In the auto space, Hyundai Motor gained 1.08%, but Kia Motor decreased 1.96% and Ssangyong Motor lost 7.50%.
Shipbuilders ended weaker on profit taking. Hyundai Heavy Industries slipped 1.40%, Daewoo Shipping fell 4.35% and Samsung Heavy Industries decreased 2.68%.
Oil-related stocks ended mixed. While S-Oil gained 0.40%, SK Holdings lost 1.16%.
In Hong Kong, the benchmark Hang Seng Index ended higher by 18.28 points, or 0.27%, at 15,601, giving away more than 350 points from early gains on profit taking.
Property related stocks ended higher. Sino Land surged up 9.75%, New World Development advanced 5.85% and Wharf Holdings gained 5.76%. Other property related stocks such as Henderson Land, Swire Pacific, Hang Lung Property and SHK Property also ended in positive territory.
Telecommunication stocks ended mixed. While Tencent gained 2.33%, and China Unicom added 0.95%, Hutchison Whimpoa lost 2.28%, and China Mobile slipped 0.20%.
Financial stocks ended lower on profit taking. Index mover HSBC Holdings slipped 0.18%, Bank of East Asia declined 1.56%, Bank of China lost 1.75%, Bank of Communications fell 1.43% and BOC Hong Kong dropped 1.13%. Insurance stocks, Ping An and China Life, remained unchanged from previous close.
China-related stocks also ended mixed on profit taking. China Resources gained 1.80% China Mercantile Holdings advanced 1.18%, but China Shenhua lost 5.47% and China Overseas declined 1.36%.
Among resource stocks, Aluminum Corporation of China, or CHALCO, fell 4.45% and Petrochina lost 1.46%, but CNOOC gained 4.78%.
Among the other major markets, China's Shanghai Composite Index slipped 30.20 points, or 1.19% to 2,504 and Taiwan's Weighted Index declined 4.03% or 241.79 points, to 5,755. The Jakarta Composite Index in Indonesia gained 0.60% or 9.70 points to 1,635 and the Singapore Strait Times Index added 0.25% or 4.81 points to 1,897.
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