Asian stocks turned in a mixed performance on Monday, as positive sentiment following strong earnings from JPMorgan Chase & Co and Wells Fargo & Co tempered concerns about an impending Chinese economic slowdown. With several U.S. companies reporting results this week and Spain's bond auctions due on Tuesday and Thursday, investors await fresh directional cues from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's congressional testimony on July 17 and 18.
A slew of key U.S. corporate second-quarter earnings announcements are due this week, with Citigroup reporting results before the open of Wall Street later today, while Coca-Cola, Goldman Sachs Group, Intel, Johnson & Johnson and Yahoo Inc. are scheduled to announce their quarterly results tomorrow.
Commodities such as copper and crude edged lower and the euro eased against the dollar after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the question of liability for future aid to troubled banks in Europe has not yet been decided.
China's Shanghai Composite index tumbled 1.7 percent to end at a more than three-year low on growth concerns after Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao warned that the country's economic rebound was not yet stable and economic hardship may persist for a while.
However, spurring speculation of more stimulus measures, Wen said that the government would "fine tune" policy in the second half to support growth, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose a modest 0.2 percent, with mainland oil stocks pacing the gainers.
Australian shares rose notably despite caution ahead of Bernanke's semi-annual testimony before the U.S. lawmakers on the state of the economy on Tuesday and Wednesday. Paring some early gains, both the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 and the broader All Ordinaries index ended the session up about 0.6 percent each.
Miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto ended up 1 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively, while smaller rival Fortescue climbed 2.4 percent and gold miner Newcrest added 1.7 percent. Among the big banks, ANZ, Commonwealth and Westpac rose about half a percent each, but NAB eased 0.4 percent.
The Australian dollar held on to its gains made on Friday as investors looked ahead to the release of the minutes of the Reserve Bank of Australia's June 3 board meeting due out tomorrow for clues on whether the central bank will cut its cash rate next month.
Seoul shares rose modestly, with the benchmark Kospi average rising 0.3 percent, as investors looked for direction from U.S. and domestic corporate earnings. Battered petrochemical shares such as LG Chem and SK Chemicals rose 2-4 percent, while heavyweights Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Motor rose about a percent each, extending Friday's gains.
Shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries tumbled 2.9 percent, extending its losing streak for a seventh consecutive session on concerns that its second-quarter operating profit may miss estimates.
New Zealand shares extended declines from a two-month high, as investors fretted about a weak earnings season. Telecom, the biggest company on the exchange, tumbled 3.1 percent, Chorus, Telecom's demerged infrastructure arm, retreated 3.7 percent and Fletcher Building, the nation's largest construction company, lost 1.7 percent.
Among the prominent gainers, insurer Tower and carpet maker Cavalier rose about 3 percent each. Gold miner OceanaGold added 1.3 percent after providing a progress report on its Didipio gold and copper project in the Philippines. The benchmark NZX-50 index slid 0.8 percent.
Elsewhere, the Japanese market was closed for a public holiday. India's benchmark Sensex was last trading down 0.2 percent in volatile trading after government data showed the nation's headline inflation slowed to its lowest level in five months in June. However, at 7.25 percent, the inflation is still way above the Reserve Bank of India's 6 percent target.
Indonesia's Jakarta Composite index was up 0.7 percent and Malaysia's KLSE Composite rose 0.6 percent, while Singapore's Straits Times was down marginally and the Taiwan Weighted average eased 0.2 percent.
On Wall Street, stocks rose sharply on Friday, with economic data from China as well as JPMorgan's strong quarterly results underpinning sentiment. Traders largely shrugged off a report from Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan that showed an unexpected decline in consumer sentiment to the lowest level this year in July. The Dow rallied 1.6 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq gained 1.5 percent and the S&P 500 added 1.7 percent.
by RTT Staff Writer
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