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Market Update

Asian Markets End Mostly Higher

Most Asian stocks posted solid gains Thursday amid some encouraging corporate news and after the Bank of Japan said it would continue with its asset purchase program and keep interest rates unchanged.

At close, the Nikkei was up 0.5% while Australia's S&P/ASX All Ordinaries ended 0.7% higher after hitting its highest level since September 2008.

The Hang Seng, which resumed trading today, rose 0.9% even as mainland Chinese markets continued to remain shut for the Chinese Lunar New Year holidays.

Mumbai's Sensex , however, slipped 0.6% despite better-than-expected inflation numbers for January. The monthly headline inflation eased to its lowest in more than three years during January, giving the central bank more room to slash interest rates.

The Bank of Japan concluded its monetary policy meet today and left its policy interest rates and the size of its asset purchase program unchanged. Speculations gained ground the central bank would expand its asset purchase program soon after the appointment of a new governor in the second quarter.

These speculations gained ground after data showed Japan's economy contracted for the third straight quarter during the October-December period.

In currencies, the yen slipped slightly against the dollar on heels of the policy announcement. The USD/JPY pair was up 0.18% at 93.58 during the Asian trade, as compared with 93.42 touched in late North American trading on Wednesday.

Stocks on the move

Corporate news were in focus across the region today.

In Tokyo, Asahi Group Holdings posted a record fiscal-year profit and said it will buy back around 4.3% of its stock. Shares of the beer manufacturer surged nearly 6% in response.

Yokohama Rubber Company vaulted over 12% after the company said its fiscal-year net profit increased more than twice-fold.

Among other gainers, chipmakers Advantest Corp. and Sumco Corp. improved 4.8% and 3.7% respectively. Mitsubishi Materials bounced over 5.5%

In Hong Kong, property developers notched higher. China Resources Land surged over 3% while Poly Property Group rose 3.4%.

Financials supported with index heavyweight HSBC Holdings, up 1.6%, while Bank of Communications gained 2.3%. ICBC rose 2.5% and China Construction Bank added 1.9%.

In company news, energy giant CNOOC said it received approval from U.S. regulators to acquire Canada's Nexen Inc. for $15 billion. Shares of CNOOC were up around 2%.

In Australia, a handful of upbeat corporate announcements pushed the benchmark index higher.

Wesfarmers rose 1.2% after the conglomerate said its first-half net profit increased 9.3% on account of strong sales at its Coles supermarket chain.

Dexus Property Group dropped 1% despite posting a strong rise in first-half profit while Mirvac Group also declined 1% as the company's half-year net profit slumped 69%.

In the mining segment, Rio Tinto rose 2.3% ahead of its earnings release while BHP Billiton gained 2.6%. Fortescue Metals Group advanced 4.3%.

Alumina Ltd. bounced over 7% after the miner announced that CITIC Resources Holdings Ltd. of Hong Kong will take a 13% stake in the firm. Shares of Citic were up 0.9% on the Hang Seng.

Bucking the regional trend, shares in Mumbai drifted lower.

On the earnings front, Tata Motors dropped 2.6%  ahead of its quarterly results while SBI erased 1.8% despite reporting 4% rise in quarterly profits.

Bharti Airtel slumped over 4% while Wipro lost 3.3% amid news the IT services giant will be exluded from the Nifty benchmark effective 1st April.

Similarly Maruti Suzuki retreated 3.3% after the car manufacturer was excluded from the MSCI World Index.