February 17, 2008

Asia shakes off weak Wall Street lead

Asian stocks traded at levels near to Friday's close, with investor sentiment not too affected by the pessimistic US consumer confidence data that pushed down Wall Street last week.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 stock average opened up 0.8 per cent 13,737.00 in early afternoon trading, while the broader Topix was up 0.5 per cent at 1,341.59. The yen recently traded at 107.80.

Toshiba contributed to the gains, increasing 5.6 per cent to Y827, as investors cheered news that the consumer electronics company was nearly ready to admit defeat and exit the HD DVD business. Sony, which backs the rival Blu-ray format, added 1.4 per cent to Y4,930.

In Australia, all attention was on Australia & New Zealand Banking Group, whose shares plummeted after it said profit growth for the year would be erased by provisions it's making for derivative investments. Shares of the company slumped 5.8 per cent to A$22.50, dragging down the overall S&P ASX 200 index 0.7 per cent to 5,566.30.

Other banks were also dragged down, with National Australia Bank (NYSE:NAU) sliding 2.8 per cent to A$29.72, while Westpac Banking (NYSE:WBK) dropped 3.4 per cent to A$22.56.

Investors took a more positive view of DBS, the Singapore bank that announced a S$400m writedown and an 18 per cent drop in quarterly profit on Friday, and the stock traded up 1.9 per cent at S$18.24. The Straits Times Index, recently traded down 0.1 per cent at 3.085.04.

South Korea's Kospi also managed to fend off the effect of potential losses from the weaker US data, and was recent trading up 0.1 per cent at 1,697.14, led by shipbuilders.

Hyundai Heavy, the world's largest shipbuilder, gained 0.1 per cent to Won373,500.

The Hang Seng was unchanged, while the shares of mainland China traded in Hong Kong rose 0.5 per cent. Shares in Shanghai were up 1.4 per cent at 4,561.13.

Reports that Japanese and South Korean steel companies had reached an agreement to pay Vale, a Brazilian miner, 65 per cent more for iron ore in the next fiscal year led to a mixed reaction in stocks. Nippon Steel gained 3.4 per cent to 575, while South Korea's Posco dropped 1.7 per cent to Won506,000.

Shares of BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHP), Australian iron ore miner, dropped1 per cent to A$38.91, while Rio Tinto's fell 1.5 per cent to A$135.08.

Centro Properties shares were up 3 per cent, after rising as much as 17 per cent, on news its lenders agreed to give it two more months to make debt repayments.

Rising oil prices aided the shares of energy companies in Australia. Woodside Petroleum shares gained 2 per cent to A$50.85, while Santos (NASDAQ:STOSY) gained 3.8 per cent A$14.17. Brent spot oil traded near to $98 per barrel.

Palladium traded at another record of $2,087 on more power shortages in South Africa.

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