Bangkok: Most Asian markets rose on Friday, going against a third straight drop on Wall Street that came after the US government confirmed the American economy did indeed see a sharp slowdown in the last quarter of 2007.
Japan’s stock market rose to its highest level in two weeks as last-minute buying before the end of the fiscal year lifted a wide range of blue chips, including electronics and financial shares. The Nikkei 225 stock index rose 1.7% to 12,820.5.
India’s main stock index, the Sensex, rose 2.2%, while the main benchmarks rose in Hong Kong and China on rumours of possible moves by mainland authorities to support Chinese share values.
The blue-chip Hang Seng Index rose 2.7% to 23,285.95, while the Shanghai Composite Index gained 4.9% to 3,580.1—bouncing back from a drop of more than 5% the day before.
Traders in Tokyo said the market may be entering a brief rebound period. Major US investment banks have finished reporting quarterly earnings, and expectations are growing that domestic investors, including pension funds, will pump in new money at the start of the fiscal year on 1 April.
“Now that the worst is over for the market, it is entering an upward trend as the tension eases,” said Mitsushige Akino, chief fund manager at Ichiyoshi Investment Management.
The improved mood invited bargain-hunting in issues with relatively good earnings fundamentals such as trading houses. Mitsubishi Corp. jumped 5%, while Sumitomo Corp. advanced 3.3%.
Among consumer electronics companies, Matsushita Electric added 4.5% and Mitsubishi Electric climbed 4.3%.
Taisho Pharmaceutical Co. shed 1.7% on a Nikkei report it will likely see a profit decline next fiscal year due to an expected drop in its prescription drug sales.
Shares listed in Hong Kong and Shanghai rose broadly on speculation over a cut in the stamp duty on stock trades on the mainland. Rumours were also flying that the Chinese government might soon introduce stock index futures, a long-awaited move that is expected to boost investor interest and trading volume.
In Hong Kong, China Shenhua Energy Co. Ltd soared 9%, PetroChina Co. Ltd rose 5.2%, Ping An Insurance jumped 8.3%, and China Life Insurance Co. Ltd rose 6.1%.
Also, oil company CNOOC Ltd rose 6.8% as oil prices continued to hold well above US $100 (Rs4,010) a barrel.
Many of the same companies surged similarly in their Shanghai listings. However, some analysts warned that the prospects for lower earnings due to the US economic slowdown continue to dog the market. On Thursday in the US, the Dow Jones average posted its second straight loss of more than 100 points, falling 1% to 12,302.5. The only major market to lose ground on Friday in the Asia-Pacific region was Australia’s stock exchange, where the S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.4%.
Elsewhere, the Korea Composite Stock Price Index rose 1.5%, and the Philippines Stock Exchange Index rose 1%.
In currencies, the dollar fell to 99.95 yen at 5:50pm. (0850 GMT) in Tokyo, down from 100 yen late Thursday in New York, after briefly rising as high as 100.19. The euro fell to $1.5769 from $1.5780.