HONG KONG - Asian markets were mostly higher Wednesday as investors took heart from a rare piece of good news from the United States' economy.
Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul all recorded healthy gains of between two and three percent on the back of an unexpected jump in US home sales for January.
And Shanghai added more than two percent on hopes for better liquidity among banks after news that lending had increased. There was also optimism the government will announce further stimulus moves to boost the economy.
However, Sydney was two percent lower on a day the world's biggest miner BHP Billiton announced a 56.5 percent fall in first half profit.
TOKYO: Up 2.73 percent. The Nikkei-225 gained 213.43 points to end at 8,038.94.
Traders said buying from foreign investors as well as domestic long-term investors such as pension funds supported gains in the market.
The market's robust rise was a natural rebound after a three-day losing streak, Hiroichi Nishi, a broker at Nikko Cordial Securities, told Dow Jones Newswires.
"The yen's rise also took a breather while there was buying, believed to be from pension funds, in late trading," Nishi said.
But dismal corporate earnings reports are posing risks going forward, analysts said.
Panasonic rose 11 yen or 1.02 percent to 1,092, as it announced it was to cut 15,000 jobs.
Toyota Motor gained 4.51 percent to 3,010, while Honda Motor added 6.31 percent to 2,190.
HONG KONG: Up 2.3 percent. The Hang Seng Index closed up 287.00 points at 13,063.89.
China-related stocks were responsible for driving the market up following comments by Premier Wen Jiabao that raised expectations China will take fresh market-boosting measures.
"Investors took Wen's comments as a positive and speculated on any possible measures," YK Chan, a fund manager at Phillip Asset Management, told Dow Jones Newswires.
China Life Insurance jumped 4.6 percent to 21.80 dollars and China Construction Bank rose 4.5 percent to 3.94.
Sinopec surged 4.1 percent to 4.34 dollars.
Property developers faced further downward pressure amid continued concerns of weakening homebuying interest.
Henderson Land fell 1.6 percent to 27.55 dollars.
SYDNEY: Down two percent. The S&P/ASX 200 lost 70.8 points to 3,437.9.
The market was bracing for a disappointing results season and had been spooked by capital raising and poor earnings announcements from major companies, said CommSec analyst Juliette Saly.
The world's largest mining company BHP Billiton closed flat at 29.77.
Qantas reported a 68.2 percent dive in first-half pre-tax profit, and announced a 500-million-Australian-dollar capital raising plan. Its shares were frozen ahead of the announcement and resume trading Thursday.
Rio Tinto shed 2.8 percent to 44.25.
ANZ Banking Group softened 3.1 percent to 13.28 and National Australia Bank was 0.5 percent lower at 19.45.
SHANGHAI: Up 2.28 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index, which covers A and B shares, rose 46.94 points to a near four-month high at 2,107.75.
The state-run China Securities Journal reported Wednesday that January's new yuan loans are likely to exceed 1.2 trillion yuan (175 billion dollars), far above December's 771.8 billion yuan.
Financial companies led the rally. Changjiang Securities rose 4.7 percent to 11.80 yuan.
Steel producers were also among the day's gainers. Baoshan Iron and Steel rose 2.0 percent to 5.60 yuan.
Power equipment suppliers rose after the China Securities Journal reported China will invest 580 billion yuan this year in the power sector.
Huayi Electric rose by the 10 percent daily limit to 14.52 yuan.
TAIPEI: Up 0.39 percent. The weighted index rose 17.16 points to 4,389.97.
Food rose 3.56 percent, transport gained 0.84 percent and electronics were up 0.67 percent, while financial stocks were down 0.4 percent.
"Today's rise reflects a slow-down, with investors unsure if the recent uptrend can persist," said David Li of Daiwa Securities SMBC-Cathay. "Heavy profit-taking is likely to emerge for the rest of week."
Food giant Uni-President Enterprise soared 5.6 percent to 27.55 Taiwan dollars.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, the world's largest contract microchip maker by revenue, was up 0.12 percent at 42.9.
SEOUL: Up 2.8 percent. The KOSPI gained 32.17 points to 1,195.37.
Foreigners extended their buying spree into the sixth consecutive session, while local institutions were also net buyers.
"Foreigners' interest in local stocks remained selective. They are buying stocks of only a few sectors such as technology, which have upside momentum," said Jung Seung-Jae, an analyst at Mirae Asset Securities.
Samsung Electronics rose 5.7 percent to 518,000 won and LG Display climbed 4.4 percent to 28,550.
Hyundai Motor jumped 8 percent to 51,900 won and its affiliate Kia Motors soared 11.7 percent to 8,950.
SINGAPORE: Down 0.26 percent. The STI was 4.53 points lower at 1,707.39.
"The market is waiting for the US jobs report on Friday. You won't see heavy trading until then," said a research manager at a local brokerage.
Bank shares were mixed, with United Overseas Bank closing 12 cents down at 11.50, while DBS rose 14 cents to 8.69.
CapitaLand ended six cents higher at 2.45.
Singapore Telecommunications fell four cents to 2.51 and Singapore Airlines was steady at 11.06.
KUALA LUMPUR: Down 0.3 percent. The KLCI dropped 2.87 points to close at 876.80.
Dealers say political woes in northern Perak state created some jitters among investors, causing a minor sell-off at the end of trade.
A dealer also said: "Short-term investors are taking a very cautious approach and sitting on the sidelines ahead of Friday's US jobs report."
Sime Darby fell 0.9 percent to 5.35 ringgit as Bumiputra-Commerce slid 2.3 percent to 6.30 ringgit.
On the upside, TMI rose 2 percent to 3.08 ringgit.
BANGKOK: Up 0.55 percent. The SET rose 2.35 points to close at 433.04.
"There were no local factors in play today. Our market gained in line with overseas markets but the volume (of trading) was still thin," said Pichai Lertsupongkit at Thanachart Securities.
He said investors reacted to expectations that the United States Congress will adopt a new economic stimulus package.
Bangkok Bank rose 1.00 baht to close at 71.50 baht.
PTT Plc shed 1.00 baht to 154.00 baht.
JAKARTA: Up 1.2 percent. The Jakarta Composite Index rose 16.03 points to 1,320.36 in thin volume.
The market was helped by an interest rate cut by the central Bank Indonesia.
Bank Danamon rose 5.7 percent to 2,325 rupiah and Telkom increased 5.1 percent to 6,150.
MANILA: Up 1.2 percent. The composite index gained 21.42 points to 1,847.55.
Dealers said gains on Wall Street inspired local investors to scout for stocks in companies that are likely to post strong 2008 profits.
Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. rose 2.4 percent to 2,145 pesos, while rival Globe Telecom shed 2.4 percent to 830 pesos.
MUMBAI: Up 0.57 percent. The Sensex added 52.55 points to 9,201.85.
Earlier gains were pegged back on news the country's software sector would grow by a lower-than-forecast 16 to 17 percent this financial year, dealers said.
WELLINGTON: Down 0.42 percent. The NZX-50 index dropped 11.66 points to 2,768.62.
The fall came on the day the government announced a multi-million-dollar growth plan that included tax reform to boost small- and medium-sized businesses.
Telecom was down three cents at 2.64 dollars, Contact Energy fell four cents to 6.84 and Fletcher Building was one cent off at 5.53.
It was the second consecutive day of decline for Telecom, which had risen 16 percent in January while the overall market rose just 2.2 percent.
Also in negative territory were Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, which fell four cents to 3.34 and Goodman Fielder which ended 16 cents down at 1.77.