Japanese stocks began their 2012 journey on a positive note Wednesday as investors got their first chance to react to an upbeat start to global markets, while Chinese stocks struggled to rise amid lingering concerns about tight liquidity.
However, Australian stocks were the region’s best performers, with resource stocks buoyant after crude-oil futures topped $102 a barrel and gold prices finished above $1,600 an ounce in US trading. Hong Kong and South Korean stocks lagged behind, after recording solid gains Tuesday.
Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average JP:NIK +1.33 percent gained 1.2 percent, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 AU:XJO +2.08 percent jumped 2.1 percent, and Taiwan’s Taiex added 0.4 percent.
China’s Shanghai Composite Index CN:000001 -0.30 percent was down 0.1 percent, after moving in both directions following a higher opening.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index HK:HSI -0.29 percent fell 0.5 percent, while South Korea’s Kospi KR:0100 -0.10 percent was trading 0.1 percent lower.
Steve Cheng, associate director at Shenyin Wanguo in Hong Kong, said the Chinese stock markets were likely to perform better in 2012 after suffering deep losses last year.
“We will see a rally, but not a major bull market this year,” he said.
Cheng also said it was likely that the People’s Bank of China may cut banks’ reserve requirement ratio before the Chinese New Year holidays later this month.
“Usually, money markets in China are very tight before the Chinese New Year. In order not to have any negative publicity, the PBOC will reduce the reserve ratio again,” he said.
The mixed moves for Asian shares followed an overnight advance for US stocks, which cheered a six-month high for the Institute for Supply Management’s key manufacturing survey, as well as a two-decade low for German unemployment. See report on US stocks’ Tuesday trading.
The strong data also helped spur higher prices for London-traded base metals Tuesday, which pushed Australian miners higher Wednesday.
In Sydney, major global miners BHP Billiton Ltd AU:BHP +4.14 percent BHP +5.85 percent and Rio Tinto Ltd AU:RIO +2.74 percent RIO -0.15 percent climbed 4.1 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively, while energy producer Woodside Petroleum Ltd AU:WPL +2.41 percent WOPEY +3.50 percent climbed 2.3 percent.
“The fact that the material sector is top of the leader board again suggests traders are rolling out of low-beta names and adding risk. It is also interesting to see follow-through buying in our local [Australian] market, something that in the last few weeks of 2011 was unheard of,” Chris Weston, an institutional dealer at IG Markets, wrote to clients.
In Hong Kong, PetroChina Co. PTR +0.11 percent CN:601857 +0.72 percent HK:857 +1.39 percent climbed 1.2 percent, and Angang Steel Co. HK:347 +3.70 percent ANGGF +71.76 percent advanced 2.6 percent. In Shanghai, PetroChina rose 1 percent.
Those gains in Hong Kong were countered by a 15.6 percent tumble in shares of Swire Pacific Ltd HK:19 -15.57 percent SWRAY 0.00 percent, as investors were pricing in a spin-off of the conglomerate’s property unit.
In Tokyo, Japanese exporters and financials rode the upbeat data which fueled the Wall Street advance to gains of their own.
Among the major climbers, Sony Corp. JP:6758 +1.88 percent SNE +0.32 percent rose 1.6 percent, and Toyota Motor Corp. JP:7203 +2.96 percent TM -0.07 percent improved by 2.6 percent.
Technology shares also rallied, with Renesas Electronics Corp. JP:6723 +1.49 percent RNECY -2.36 percent climbing 1.1 percent, and Fujitsu Ltd JP:6702 +3.50 percent FJTSY +2.13 percent rising 3.5 percent.
Shares of Elpida Memory Inc. JP:6665 +5.31 percent ELPDF -2.06 percent jumped 5.6 percent after a report in Taiwan’s DigiTimes on Tuesday said the firm might be pushed into a tie-up with Toshiba Corp. JP:6502 -0.63 percent TOSYY +3.17 percent by the Japanese government. Toshiba fell 1 percent, although it reportedly denied the account.
Many major broker stocks also rose across Asia, with Nomura Holdings Inc. JP:8604 +6.87 percent NMR -0.23 percent NRSCF -6.25 percent up 5.6 percent in Tokyo, and Macquarie Group Ltd AU:MQG +2.21 percent MCQEF +0.79 percent improving by 2.1 percent in Sydney. -By V. Phani Kumar and Michael Kitchen