Bangkok: Asian markets were mostly higher in early trading on Monday, buoyed by news over the weekend that Japan was making progress in its battle to control radiation leaks at a nuclear complex that was severely damaged in the 11 March earthquake.
South Korea’s Kospi index was up 0.9% in early trading to 1,999.15. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 1. 3% to 22,584.66. Australia’s S&P ASX 200 was up 0.1% to 4,632.70.
Japan’s Nikkei index was closed for a public holiday after a week of dizzying plunges. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan and mainland China also rose. Still, the crisis in Japan was far from over.
The World Bank said Japan may need five years in order to rebuild after the strongest earthquake in the country’s history unleashed a towering tsunami that decimated the industrial northeast, causing $235 billion in damaged and likely killing more than 18,000 people.
On a positive note, the World Bank added that it expected growth in Japan to pick up “as reconstruction efforts, which could last five years, accelerate.” But another crisis — this one in the Middle East — threatened to shake the market’s fragile confidence.
US and allied forces launched a military campaign over the weekend in support of a UN resolution authorizing military action against Opec-member Libya to protect civilians amid an internal rebellion against the leadership of Moammar Gadhafi.
Benchmark crude rose $2.13 to $103.26 in Asia. The contract for April delivery fell $2 to settle at $100.75 a barrel late Friday. Moody’s Investors Service has warned that if oil prices remain around $100 a barrel, it will imperil the global economic recovery.
Carmakers, airlines and agricultural companies would be hit the hardest. Oil prices may soon surge if Japan weans itself off nuclear power. Economists think that oil prices above $130 could push the US into another recession.