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Asian stocks gain, but rise seen fragile

Asian stocks gain, but rise seen fragile
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First Published: Tue, Mar 10 2009. 09 58 AM IST
Updated: Tue, Mar 10 2009. 09 58 AM IST
Hong Kong: Asian shares rebounded on Tuesday from a three-session losing streak, while the safe-haven bid on the dollar retreated in moves seen as a momentary reprieve from concerns about the weak outlook for the global economy.
Asian share gains were led by banks, including heavyweight HSBC, which has taken a pounding on concerns about capital raising and the dire state of the world’s financial system.
However, Japan’s Nikkei average dipped lower to trade close to a 26-year intraday low, led by worries about the global competitiveness of the country’s drugs sector following a $41 billion merger in the United States.
Oil prices edged up above $47 a barrel on expectations for more Opec output cuts and geopolitical concerns after the United States said five Chinese ships, including a naval vessel, harassed a US Navy ship in international waters.
“It is hard to think that stocks will turn to an upward trend given the credit situation. The dollar is likely to retain its safe-haven status,” said Kazuyuki Kato, treasury department manager at Mizuho Trust and Banking Co in Japan.
The MSCI index of Asia-Pacific stocks outside Japan advanced 1.2% after losing 1.7% over the previous three sessions.
Those gains helped the dollar retreat against the euro and other major currencies, after it rose last week to a three-year high.
Confidence in policy makers’ efforts to revive global economic growth will be key to a sustained rebound in global equities, with key indexes such as the US the Dow Jones industrial average trading at about 12-year lows.
US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said on Monday that the United States has taken more action in recent weeks to tackle its economic problems than other countries have done in years, trying to reassure lawmakers U.S. recovery efforts are on track.
“We’re doing more in weeks than other countries do in years,” Geithner told Reuters after briefing US Democratic lawmakers on the progress of the Obama administration’s plans.
The rise in Asian shares was led by a 2.5% gain in Hong Kong stocks. South Korea, Australia, Taiwan and Singapore posted more modest gains.
HSBC jumped 13.2% after news of its upcoming rights issue had led shares in the lender to slump on Monday to its lowest since 1995.
Banking shares elsewhere also advanced, with South Korea’s Woori Finance Holdings up 6.2%.
Though Asia has been spared the sort of writedowns of bad debt seen elsewhere, the global financial crisis is still spreading to regional economies, sparking concerns as companies cut borrowing and struggle to repay business loans.
Among Tuesday’s decliners, the Nikkei slid 0.7% to 7,033.27, weighed down by drugmakers such as Astellas Pharma. The average booked a 26-year closing low on Monday of 7,086.03 and it is hovering just above a 26-year intraday low traded last October of 6,994.90.
Investors are worried the Japanese drugs sector will be less competitive in the global market place after Merck of the United States proposed to take over Schering-Plough for $41 billion.
The dollar gave up some recent gains. The euro advanced 0.2 percent to $1.2637 after touching a three-month low of $1.2457 last week.
Sterling rose 0.3% to $1.3815 after falling more than 2% to its lowest in more than a month on Monday.
The head of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet, said on Monday the global economy was still slowing but that there were signs a turning-point may be near.
The yen though continued to suffer on worries about the world’s second-largest economy, which data showed on Monday posted its first current account deficit in January in 13 years.
Japanese government bonds edged lower on supply concerns after Japan’s finance minister, Kaoru Yosano, said the government would take whatever steps were needed to keep the economy afloat.
June government bond futures fell 0.26 point. The benchmark 10-year-yield rose 0.5 basis point to 1.3%, hovering near a three-week high of 1.31% reached last week.
In commodity markets, oil prices edged up 12 cents to $47.19 a barrel. Crude was partly supported on expectations that weekly US inventory data due later in the day would show another fall in crude stocks.
Gold dipped about $4 to $916.60 an ounce, retreating further from an 11-month high above $1,000 marked on 11February.
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First Published: Tue, Mar 10 2009. 09 58 AM IST
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