Most Asian markets rise as Japanese stocks hit 9-month high

  • Business
  • Thursday, 18 Jan 2007

HONG KONG: Most Asian markets advanced Thursday, with Japanese stocks hitting a nine-month high after the central bank decided to leave interest rates unchanged.  

Markets in Singapore and New Zealand rose to record highs. 

Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei 225 index rose 109.58 points, or 0.63 percent, to close at 17,370.93 points - the highest since April. 21, 2006. 

The Bank of Japan decided Thursday to keep interest rates unchanged at 0.25 percent amid mounting political pressure to hold off on raising borrowing costs to sustain the nation's economic recovery. 

The verdict settles recent market uncertainty, but some analysts said the decision was somewhat worrying in that it appeared the bank bent to the government's will rather than pursuing an independent line. 

"Keeping rates on hold is quite positive for the market, but only in the short-term,'' said Akio Yoshino, market economist at Societe Generale Asset Management in Tokyo. 

Traders said the move should keep the yen weak and help export stocks and companies with large borrowing requirements stay strong over the next few weeks. 

Government officials denied placing pressure on the central bank, and Bank of Japan Gov. Toshihiko Fukui said the bank was only looking at economic factors. 

Gainers included exporter issues like Honda Motor Co. and camera manufacturer Nikon Corp. 

In Hong Kong, the blue chip Hang Seng Index rose 212.94 points, or 1.1 percent, to close at 20,277.51. 

Hong Kong's stock market is "quite expensive,'' Garry Evans, a strategist at HSBC, wrote in a research report. He said Hang Seng Index is trading at 19 times of forward price/earning ratio, higher than its past six-year average of 15.7 times. 

The broader market picked up its strength in the afternoon led by China Mobile - the mainland's biggest mobile phone operator and the second-largest component of the benchmark index by market capitalization. 

The stock ended 2.8 percent higher at HK$70.55. 

Hong Kong Exchanges closed 2.6 percent higher at HK$89.75, after hitting record high HK$89.85 in the afternoon. 

Bucking the uptrend, China Construction Bank fell 2.2 percent to HK$4.79 while Bank of China was down 1.2 percent to HK$4.03.In currencies, the dollar rose to 121.28 yen late Thursday, up from 120.67 yen late Wednesday in New York.  

The euro rose to US$1.2966 from US$1.2932.Elsewhere: 

JAKARTA: Indonesian shares finished up, helped by firmer rupiah and gains in most Asian major markets. The Jakarta Stock Exchange Composite index closed 19.225 points or 1.1 percent up to 1,777.708 point. 

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian shares were higher on follow-through buying interest by foreign funds. The Kuala Lumpur Composite Index rose 0.7 percent to 1,147.66 points. 

MANILA: Philippine shares advanced in heavy trade dominated by foreign investors, ahead of 2006 earnings reports. The benchmark Philippine Stock Exchange Index gained 40.17 points, or 1.3 percent, at 3,081.73. 

SEOUL: South Korean shares ended slightly higher, with gains led by steelmaker Posco and bank stocks. The Korea Composite Stock Price Index, or Kospi, rose 3.73 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,383.21. 

SHANGHAI: Chinese stocks slipped as investors sold shares to lock in profits from recent gains in the bank and property sectors. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index, which tracks both A and B shares, lost 0.8 percent to 2,756.98. The Shenzhen Composite Index rose 1.2 percent to 650.20. 

SINGAPORE: Singapore shares ended at a record high, buoyed by gains in key Asian markets and a decision by the Bank of Japan to keep interest rates unchanged. The benchmark Straits Times Index rose 0.79 percent to 3,061.65. The previous closing high was 3038.21 points on Tuesday. 

SYDNEY: Australian stocks rose, supported by major bank and mining stocks ahead of the February profit reporting season. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index added 26.3 points, or 0.5 percent, to 5,672.4. 

TAIPEI: Taiwan shares rose slightly on optimism that financial companies had put bad-debt problems behind them. The Weighted Price Index of the Taiwan Stock Exchange gained 61.2 points, or 0.8 percent, to 7,895.18. 

WELLINGTON: New Zealand stocks surged to a record high on takeover activity and speculation ahead of February's earnings season. The benchmark NZX-50 index gained 23 points, or 0.6 percent, to 4,096.34. - AP

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