LONDON (CNNfn) - Tokyo shares continued their winning ways Thursday amid signs of rekindled investor confidence in the economy. Hong Kong ended lower after a topsy turvy session.
Shares on the benchmark Nikkei index settled back slightly in late trade to close up 0.14 percent, or 22.14 points, at 15,502.14. The index had earlier sprinted ahead more than 2 percent to a session-peak of 15,840.23. A combination of looser credit from the Bank of Japan and government vows to pump-prime the bank sector with a cash injection have lifted the market's mood, analysts said.
The banking sector closed up 1.76 percent, with the largest gains coming from Sakura Bank which leapt almost 7 percent to close at 323 yen.
The Nikkei's gains, coming a day after Sony Corp.'s restructuring plans touched off a 2.5 percent rally, marked the index's sixth rise in seven sessions. The blue-chip average is up 10 percent this month.
But Sony registered one of the sharpest falls among blue chips as investors decided to cash in on its massive gains in recent sessions. The stock closed 7.93 percent lower at 10,910 yen.
Nippon Paper Industries surged more than 9 percent to 535 yen a day after the company said it would cut 1,300 jobs by March 2002.
Hong Kong blue chips closed down almost 1 percent with the Hang Seng index ending at 10,662.81 after a see-saw session. Traders indicated that investors were consolidating profits but expected the upward trend to continue in future sessions.
Air carrier Cathay Pacific vaulted more than 5 percent a day after reporting its first annual loss in 35 years. The results were better than expected and investors apparently felt that the airline had suffered its worst damage, Reuters reported.
HSBC Holdings lost HK$3 to close at HK$234.
An initially limp session turned more positive in Australia, where the All Ordinaries index rose 0.65 percent, or 19.1 points, to a new record high of 2,950.5. Positive comments by the Reserve Bank of Australia's governor and Wall Street's overnight gains were behind the uplift in sentiment.
In Singapore, property stocks continued to curry favor with investors, but the Straits Times Index struggled to hold onto earlier gains and ended Thursday up 0.15 percent to 1,471.73.
Malaysian shares dipped almost 1 percent ahead of a regional election result. A broker told Reuters investors were uncertain whether the Barisian National coalition of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad would secure a majority in the elections in Sabah state. The Composite index closed 0.92 percent lower at 523.27.
Philippine blue chips shed 1.56 percent to finish at 1,950.52, their third straight loss, after socio-economic planning secretary Felipe Medalla said that first-quarter gross domestic product may be flat, Reuters reported.
Taiwan's weighted index gave up 0.77 percent by the end to close at 6,436.80.
Jakarta stocks staged a late rally to close 1.3 percent higher at 378.644. Thai stocks also surged, ending the session up 3.58 percent at 345.21 on positive sentiment about a bankruptcy bill. Korea shares spiked more than 2 percent to close at 582.
-- from staff and wire reports