Asian shares rally but uncertainty lurks ahead

Asian shares rally but uncertainty lurks ahead
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First Published: Tue, Apr 14 2009. 02 27 PM IST
Updated: Tue, Apr 14 2009. 02 27 PM IST
Hong Kong: Asian shares rose to a six-month high on Tuesday after Goldman Sachs’ stronger-than-expected profit signalled the worst could be behind for US banks, but plenty of concerns about the global economy still remain.
European shares were set to gain at the start of the trading week for some markets after the long Easter weekend. However, other markets signalled far less optimism. The yen, which tends to benefit from safe-haven trades, gained broadly.
Whether a rally for Asian stocks outside Japan - up now more than 30% since their 2009 low on 4 March - can be sustained remains in doubt, with analysts saying the full brunt of the global recession has yet to be reflected.
Singapore devalued its currency after posting on Tuesday its worst quarterly economic contraction ever, while a forecast for weaker demand for oil by the International Energy Agency sent crudes tumbling to below $50 a barrel.
Asian automaker shares slid on worries over the fate of General Motors Corp, helping send Japan’s Nikkei average down 0.9%.
“If GM were to go bankrupt, that would raise questions about what would happen to Japanese auto-parts makers and Japanese automakers’ dealer networks. The implications are broad,” said Takahiko Murai, general manager of equities at Nozomi Securities.
“Although the financial sector seems to have seen the worst, a recovery for manufacturers has been slow and worries remain.”
Still, the MSCI index of Asia-Pacific stocks outside Japan rose at one point on Tuesday to its highest since mid-October.
The MSCI gauge rose 2% as of 11:30am, as major markets such as in Hong Kong and Australia added more than 2% each in their return to trade after a four-day weekend.
The gains came after Goldman Sachs Group Inc on Monday posted much higher-than-expected first-quarter profit as it took more trading risk, and said it plans a $5 billion common share sale to help pay back government funds.
The results followed Wells Fargo announcement last week that it expects to report a record first-quarter profit.
Though Goldman and Wells Fargo did not suffer as much as other U.S. financial firms, at least they were seen providing some signs the US banking industry is finally stabilising after months of credit-related losses.
Markets in South Korea, Taiwan and Shanghai posted more modest gains.
Not so fast?
A further wave of global earnings results this week could steer markets, including those from beleaguered Citigroup and US blue chip General Electric, both on due Friday.
It could be rough for some sectors. Qantas Airways Ltd forecast on Tuesday its first second-half loss in six year as Australia’s biggest airline battles a slump in passenger demand and rising competition.
The fate of US auto makers also remains a concern.
The New York Times reported late on Sunday that the US Treasury Department was directing GM to lay the groundwork for a bankruptcy filing should it fail to reach give-back deals with stakeholders by a deadline set by the Obama administration.
That hit shares in automakers such as Japan’s Toyota Motor and South Korea’s Hyundai Motor on Tuesday.
“There’s still a lot of uncertainty out there, so many players are staying on the sidelines and we’re seeing some one-time profit-taking,” said Tomomi Yamashita, a fund manager at Shinkin Asset Management.
Oil prices remained below $50 a barrel after falling 56 cents to $49.48 a barrel after the International Energy Agency forecast world oil demand will dive by a hefty 2.4 million barrels per day in 2009 given the global recession.
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First Published: Tue, Apr 14 2009. 02 27 PM IST
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