Hong Kong: Asian stock markets opened 2009 mostly higher on Friday, with Hong Kong’s benchmark up more than 2%, as shares in commodities and telecom companies advanced.
With most investors away for the holidays and more than half the region’s markets still closed, trading volumes were extremely light and analysts didn’t read too much into the upward move.
The markets have rallied from lows touched in October and November. But after one of the worst years ever for global markets, investors expect more volatility in the first half as the affects of falling exports and higher capital costs start showing up on company balance sheets.
“There will be trading opportunities, but I don’t think we’ve hit the bottom yet,” said John Mar, co-head of sales trading at Daiwa Securities SMBC Co. in Hong Kong. “We’re still waiting for a lot of earnings to be reported, and they can’t be good.”
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index rose 2.3% to 14,712.70, while South Korea’s Kospi added 1.5% to 1,140.89.
Singapore’s Straits Times benchmark climbed 2% as investors shrugged of news that the city-state’s economy contracted for a third consecutive quarter in the October-December period amid slowing demand for exports.
Australia and India’s benchmarks were modestly lower. Markets in Japan, mainland China, Taiwan, Indonesia, the Philippines and New Zealand were closed.
Among the top gainers were Chinese telecom firms after Beijing said Wednesday it had approved licenses for next-generation mobile phone services. China Mobile, the world’s biggest phone carrier by subscribers, gained 2.7%.
Shares in energy and metal producers were buoyed after commodity prices jumped earlier this week, with Australia’s Woodside Petroleum Ltd., the country’s No. 2 oil company, up 1.7%.
In South Korea, investors were heartened after President Lee Myung-bak said his priority was pulling the country out of the global economic crisis, and announced measures to increase government spending, boost consumer demand and create jobs.
Myung-bak’s New Year’s address countered the downbeat news that South Korea, Asia’s fourth-largest economy, suffered a trade deficit for 2008 its first in a decade.
Wednesday in New York, Wall Street finished its last trading day in 2008 with a modest gain.
The Dow rose 108.00, or 1.3%, to 8,776.39, and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained 12.61, or 1.4%, to 903.25.
US markets were set to build on Wednesday’s gains as Wall Street futures rose.
Oil prices eased in Asian trade, with light, sweet crude for February delivery down $1.60 at $43.00. The contract rocketed on New Year’s Eve to settle $5.57 higher at $44.60.
In currencies, the dollar strengthened to 91.13 yen, up from 90.73 yen and the euro was lower at 1.3876.