Japanese shares advanced Wednesday amid some strength in the auto and precision-instrument sectors, but other Asian stock markets declined with banking major HSBC Holdings PLC falling in Hong Kong.
Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average JP:100000018 +0.21 percent rose 0.3%, but South Korea’s Kospi KR:SEU -0.59 percent KR:SEU -0.59 percent lost 0.6%, and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index AU:XJO -0.26 percent slipped 0.3%.
In China, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index HK:HSI -0.62 percent fell 0.5%, while the Shanghai Composite Index CN:000001 -0.06 percent edged down 0.1%.
US shares had ended in positive territory Tuesday, after Goldman Sachs Group Inc. GS +0.31 percent and Coca-Cola Co. KO +1.58 percent reported solid results.
Still, markets in the US had initially pulled back on the first day of Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke’s testimony to Congress but then recovered after he spoke about slow progress in the US economy and job market. Read more on US stocks.
“Bernanke indicated several policy tools available for easing and expressed his downbeat tone on the economy, which keeps quantitative-easing expectations alive in August or September,” said Kintai Cheung, strategist at Credit Agricole.
The Bank of Japan released the minutes of its latest interest rate meeting Wednesday which showed that the bank remains focused on providing stability to the financial system and that it “continues to conduct monetary policy in an appropriate manner.”
The dollar traded at 79.07 yen after the release of the minutes, broadly flat from JPY 79.06 in late US trading on Tuesday. Still, the greenback was above the JPY 78.83 recorded late Monday.
Japanese car maker Mazda Motor Co. JP:7261 0.00 percent MZDAF -6.50 percent gained 1.1 percent after an upgrade to neutral from underperform at Credit Suisse, while rival Nissan Motor Co. JP:7201 +2.43 percent NSANY -1.00 percent jumped 2.4%.
A report in the Nikkei out Wednesday suggested that there may be dividend hikes to come in the Japanese precision-equipment sector.
Among those named in the report, Olympus Corp. JP:7733 +5.83 percent OCPNF +5.94 percent rose 5.2 percent in Japan, while Ricoh Co. JP:7752 +1.60 percent RICOF -19.57 percent advanced 1.3 percent and Canon Inc. JP:7751 +0.59 percent CAJFF -3.95 percent gained 0.8%.
Hong Kong stocks were weighed by losses from heavyweight HSBC HK:5 -2.36 percent UK:HSBA -1.69 percent HBC -0.46 percent which fell 1.9 percent after gaining sharply on Tuesday.
The bank’s London-based executive in charge of compliance will step down in response to an ongoing US government investigation into money laundering. Read more on US probe.
Meanwhile, government data released at the start of trading in Hong Kong showed lower June new-home prices in 57 of 70 cities surveyed compared to a year earlier, though average prices were unchanged in June from May. Read more on Chinese housing data.
Mainland Chinese property names trading lower included China Resources Land Ltd HK:1109 -2.65 percent CRBJF +0.50%, down 2.2%, and China Overseas Land & Investment Ltd HK:688 -1.83 percent CAOVF +6.90%, falling 2.1%.
In Shanghai, Gemdale Corp. CN:600383 -9.16 percent dropped 5.6%, while Poly Real Estate Group Co. CN:600048 -5.49 percent fell 1.7%.
In South Korea, some financial firms came under pressure, including Korea Exchange Bank, down 1.9%, and Woori Finance Holdings Co. WF +1.99%, dropping 0.6%.
Meanwhile, miners fell in Australia, with BHP Billiton Ltd AU:BHP -1.48 percent BHP +0.83 percent down 1.9 percent after reporting production figures. Read more on BHP Billiton production figures.
Rival Rio Tinto Ltd AU:RIO -2.72 percent RIO -0.34 percent RIO -0.34%, which updated investors on production late Tuesday, fell 3.2%. Fortescue Mining Group Ltd AU:FMG -2.86 percent FSUMF -1.71 percent lost 3.4 percent after a downgrade to hold from Deutsche Bank and a target-price cut by Morgan Stanley.
Kansai Electric Power Co. JP:9503 -6.92 percent KAEPY -1.41 percent fell another 6.9 percent in Tokyo, extending loses from the previous session. Earlier in the week, massive demonstrations against the restarting of nuclear power reactors took place in Japan.
The Nikkei reported Wednesday that there may be active faults running underneath plants operated by both Kansai and Hokuriku Electric Power Co. JP:9505 -19.82%, which slumped 19.8 percent in Tokyo trading.