Asian stock markets mostly ended higher Monday on hopes that major central banks around the world would soon announce a new round of stimulus measures to tackle the deteriorating global economic conditions.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.53 percent or 103.35 points to 19585.92, Chinese Shanghai Composite advanced 0.57 percent or 11.63 points to 2059.15 and South Korean KOSPI Composite rose 0.40 percent or 7.59 points to 1912.71, while Japanese benchmark Nikkei declined 0.63 percent or 56.02 points to 8783.89 and India’s BSE Sensex was trading flat.
Market sentiment got a boost following Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's speech at Jackson Hole Friday which increased the odds of further accommodation (QE3). Bernanke said the central bank would provide additional policy accommodation if necessary, although he stopped short of providing a clear signal of imminent action. Bernanke's speech was interpreted by market participants as an indication of a stronger push for QE3 and offered some support to the markets.
Weak manufacturing reports from China also fueled hopes that the government will soon announce stimulus measures to bolster economic growth in the world's second largest economy. Official data on Saturday showed that Chinese manufacturing activity shrank for the first time in nine months, augmenting worry over the growth slowdown in the world's second largest economy.
The data released by the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing showed that the official Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) declined to 49.2 in August from 50.1 in July, the lowest reading since November 2011, and also fell short of economists' estimate of 50. Meanwhile, the final reading of the HSBC Flash PMI, a measure of the nation-wide manufacturing, showed that manufacturing activity contracted at the fastest pace since March 2009.
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Meanwhile, investors are likely to focus on the European Central Bank's monetary policy decision Thursday. Expectations are running extremely high that the ECB will unveil plans to help lower Spanish and Italian bond yields and will cut interest rates to record lows at its policy meeting on Thursday.
Draghi canceled his Saturday speech at the Jackson Hole conference, citing a busy work schedule. Market participants believe the policymakers are attempting to make progress in deciding which policies and tools should be utilized to support the single currency region before its next governing council meeting.
Japanese stocks ended lower as stronger yen weighed on the exporter companies’ shares. Canon Inc. declined 1.73 percent and Panasonic Corp. Plunged 2.63 percent while Sharp Corp. slumped 6.06 percent after the company rating was downgraded by Standard & Poor.
Property developers led the gains in Shanghai while financials advanced in Hong Kong. Gemdale Corp. surged 4.18 percent and Poly Real Estate Group Co. rallied 7.65 percent in Shanghai while Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. gained 0.71 percent in Hong Kong.
In Seoul, Hyundai Marine & Fire Insurance Co. surged 3.82 percent and Samsung Card Co. Ltd. climbed 14.60 percent while Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. declined 1.22 percent.