Hong Kong: Asian stocks closed mainly higher on Monday with bargain hunters dominating trade. However, fears over the state of the US economy continued to weigh on sentiment.
Business remained subdued with some markets still closed for Easter, but dealers said Wall Street advances last Thursday before the break added a touch of optimism that the worst of the housing and credit crisis may be over.
A multi-pronged offensive by the US Federal Reserve to keep the financial system functioning and slash interest rates aggressively appeared to have calmed troubled markets for now, even though many investors remained cautious.
Taipei, up 3.99%, led gains after the outcome of Saturday’s election raised the prospect of improved ties with China. Singapore surged 3.64%, Seoul rose 0.6% and Kuala Lumpur was 1% higher.
Manila gained 1.8%, Bangkok rose 0.49% and Jakarta rose 0.7%, while Tokyo finished the day steady.
However, Shanghai bucked the trend with a dramatic 4.49% plunge as fund managers slashed their positions in banks and PetroChina.
Sydney, Hong Kong and Wellington were closed for public holidays.
Taiwan share prices closed almost 4% higher as investors cheered opposition Ma Ying-jeou’s landslide victory in Taiwan’s presidential election over the weekend.
“The post-election rally is likely to run for at least a couple of sessions before the market heads for consolidation,” said Alex Huang, assistant vice-president at Mega International Investment Services.
Japanese share prices ended mixed as investors awaited fresh clues on the health of the global economy following a long holiday weekend for major overseas markets.
The market welcomed a rise in the dollar, which neared the symbolic 100 yen level, but a government survey showed Japanese business confidence slumping to a four-year low due to jitters about the world economic outlook.
The Nikkei 225 index on the Tokyo Stock Exchange declined a marginal 2.48 points at 12,480.09.
“While weak business sentiment dampened the market, investors were relieved that concern (about the US economy) is less pessimistic than before,” said Hiroichi Nishi, equity chief at Nikko Cordial Securities.
Chinese share prices closed 4.49% lower on massive sales by fund managers of PetroChina shares and other large-cap issues.
The SSE Composite Index on the Shanghai Stock Exchange shed 170.39 points to 3,626.19 on a turnover of $12.6 billion (Rs50,778 crore).
South Korean share prices closed 0.6% higher, with investors hopeful that the worst of the US credit crisis has passed.
The Korea Composite Stock Price Index ended 9.61 points higher at 1,655.30. The benchmark index has now gained more than 80 points since Tuesday, recouping all the heavy losses since the problems at US bank Bear Stearns.
Singapore’s Straits Times Index closed 3.64% higher on bargain hunting after the market’s recent sharp losses.
“Barring unexpected nasty shocks from the US, the local market should renew its recovery past 3,000 to 3,100 (points), which is a modest target,” said Najeeb Jarhom, head of research for retail investors at Amfraser Securities.
Malaysian share prices closed 1% higher on bargain hunting in selected blue chips.
“The market was up on a technical rebound today (after recent losses),” said Phua Kwee Hock, an analyst at SJ Securities.
Thai share prices closed 0.49% higher as small investors chased gains after losses last week, tracking other markets in the region.
“Trading in the market was quite thin today because major investors stayed away on the Easter holiday,” said Chai Chirasevenupraphand, market strategist at Capital Nomura Securities.
Indonesian composite index ended 0.7% higher, lifted by a technical rebound in late trade in select big caps.
The composite index was up 15.73 points at 2,339.29 on volume of 1.75 billion shares valued at $329.71 million.
“Trading was quite volatile today (Monday). The key index, however, managed to end in positive territory thanks to strong, late buying interest in select big caps,” said Indomitra Securities analyst David Ferdinandus.
The Philippine composite index closed 1.8% higher on bargain hunting on Monday after a long Easter break, but trading was light.