Asian stocks turned in a mixed performance on Monday, tracking gains in the U.S. and Europe on Friday following economic stimulus announcements by the U.S. Federal Reserve. Inflation concerns, Spain's delay in not asking for a full bailout and public holidays in Japan and Malaysia resulted in somewhat lackluster trading across Asia.
Chinese shares tumbled, dragged down by property developers after private data showed home sales in China's major cities fell in September following a strong rebound in the previous months. The benchmark Shanghai Composite index fell 2.1 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index edged up 0.1 percent to 20,658, its highest level since early May.
Australian shares ended on a firm note after struggling in early trading. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.3 percent to hit a fresh four-month high, led by miners as base metals soared on the London Metal Exchange Friday, boosted by the Fed's plan to buy bonds. BHP Billiton rose 2.5 percent, while Rio Tinto added 1.6 percent. Fortescue shares remained in a trading halt, pending an announcement on restructuring talks.
Banks also rose across the board, with Commonwealth up marginally and NAB rising 0.3 percent, while ANZ rose 0.7 percent and Westpac advanced 1.3 percent. Construction firm Leighton Holdings soared 8.4 percent after the construction firm started large scale production of drinking water at its Victorian desalination plant.
Aquarius Platinum jumped 7 percent after it temporarily suspended operations at its Kroondal Platinum Mine in Rustenburg, South Africa to ensure the safety of its employees and assets amid rising tensions and protests within the regional workforce and communities. Shares of Northern Iron plunged 6.4 percent after the company, which is facing competitive bids, suspended its exploratory plans to help offset the effects of falling iron ore prices.
Seoul shares lost ground as investors took some profits after Fed action last week. The benchmark Kospi average eased 5 points or 0.26 percent to end just a tad higher above the 2,000 mark.
Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics slid 1.6 percent on profit taking after Apple won a U.S. International Trade Commission case brought by Samsung over patented technology in the iPhone and iPad tablet computer, its second U.S. legal victory in a month over its smartphone competitor. Banks Shinhan Financial Group and Hana Financial rose about 3 percent each.
In economic news, South Korea's state-run think-tank, Korea Development Institute, today cut its forecast for the country's growth to 2.5 percent this year from 3.6 percent growth forecast in May, citing the Eurozone debt crisis. The latest projection is far lower than 3.0 percent and 3.3 percent estimated by the central bank and the finance ministry for this year.
New Zealand shares rose notably, lifting the benchmark NZX 50 Index up 0.7 percent to its highest level since January 2008. Shares of Fletcher Building, the nation's largest construction company, rose over 2 percent to a six-month high, while Port of Tauranga gained 1.7 percent to end at a record high.
Exporter Fisher & Paykel Healthcare added 2.4 percent, whiteware manufacturer Fisher & Paykel Appliances rose 1.3 percent and stock market operator NZX rallied 3.6 percent, while NZ Oil & Gas and Michael Hill International fell about 3 percent each. Warehouse Group, the biggest retailer on the exchange, rose 0.7 percent after announcing the acquisition of import specialist Insight Traders for an undisclosed sum.
India's benchmark Sensex was last trading up 0.7 percent as the government's decision last week to raise diesel prices and relax norms for foreign direct investment in the retail, aviation, broadcasting and power sectors cheered investors. Meanwhile, the Reserve Bank of India in its mid-quarter monetary policy review today left interest rates unchanged but lowered the cash reserve ratio for banks by 25 basis points, walking a delicate tightrope between growth and inflation.
Elsewhere, Singapore's Straits Times index was moving up 0.4 percent and the Taiwan Weighted average rose 0.3 percent, but Indonesia's Jakarta Composite index was edging down marginally.
U.S. shares rose modestly to reach new multi-year highs on Friday, with the Federal Reserve's decision on Thursday to stimulate the world's largest economy and an upbeat reading on U.S. consumer sentiment underpinning sentiment. The Dow and the S&P 500 rose about 0.4 percent each, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq added 0.9 percent.
by RTT Staff Writer
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