LONDON (CNNfn) - Asian equity markets ended with mostly modest gains Tuesday as investors shuffled portfolios ahead of the end of the quarter, pushing Hong Kong to another record close while the blue-chip index in Tokyo closed almost 0.5 percent higher.|
Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei 225 index closed up 93 points, or 0.46 percent, at 20,374.31, building on Monday's 32-month high as investors bought financial and industrial stocks at the expense of technology issues.
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index ended 9 points higher at 18,301.69 after recovering from a morning decline. Singapore's Straits Times closed down just 3 points at 2,213.48.
U.S. markets fell Monday, with the Dow Jones industrial average down 86 points at 11,025.35, hit by losses among financial stocks and for software maker Microsoft. (MSFT: Research, Estimates). The broader S&P 500 lost 3.60 points to end at 1,523.86 while the Nasdaq composite shed 4.47 points to close at 4,958.56.
In the currency markets, the euro advanced against the dollar Tuesday, adding around 0.5 cents to reach $0.9680 after an agreement between German union IG Metall and employers eased concerns about inflationary pressures. The accord is expected to set the template for labor negotiations in the 11-nation euro-zone. The yen was little changed at ¥106.42 per dollar.
Banks lift Tokyo
NTT DoCoMo, Japan's largest cellular operator and the market's biggest firm by market value, jumped 6.4 percent in Tokyo, lifted by a pact with Sakura Bank to provide online financial services. Sakura added 5.1 percent, the best performance in a buoyant financial sector where Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi added 2.1 percent and Sumitomo Bank gained 2 percent.
Autos were also strong, with Nissan Motor and Toyota Motor both advancing, though Mitsubishi Motors fell 2.6 percent a day after DaimlerChrysler (FDCX) bought a 34 percent stake.
Among tech stocks, Sony Corp. fell 0.6 percent, after a sharper decline earlier in the day. Softbank recovered from its recent woes to jump 6.1 percent, though that still left it with a drop of 30 percent this month.
Hong Kong advanced modestly from Monday's record close, though stocks were mixed as investors locked in some of the gains made in the market's recent strong run. Citic Pacific jumped 4.4 percent after announcing plans to upgrade its telecom operations in China, and conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa adding 0.7 percent after it said it would establish an $800 million Internet investment fund. Hutchison's parent, Cheung Kong (Holdings), rose 2.6 percent.
HSBC Holdings lost 1.6 percent after an 8 percent advance in the previous four sessions, with most other financial and telecom shares losing ground. Property stocks rose gently, with Henderson Land leading the sector with a 2.6 percent advance.
In Singapore, financial stocks such as DBS Group and OUB fell, to leave the main index fractionally lower. Creative Technology was the best performer, jumping 5.5 percent after a key competitor in the audio electronics sector hit financial trouble.
Taiwan trading volume surges
Among smaller markets, the Set 50 in Bangkok was the strongest, rising 0.6 percent to end at 410.73 as retail investors lifted blue-chip financial stocks.
Taiwan's TAIEX index remains one of the region's best performers this year and closed 0.5 percent higher Tuesday at 9,856.60 after earlier flirting with the 10,000 level. In the second most active trading day on record, investors pushed semiconductor stocks firmly ahead. The easing of political tensions with China also continued to draw overseas investors into a market that has climbed almost 17 percent so far this year.
Sydney's All Ordinaries ended 0.23 percent ahead at 3,232.90, with telecom firm Cable & Wireless Optus advancing on plans for asset sales that might include its cable arm.
Manila's PHS Composite closed up 0.23 percent at 1,701.08 after spending most of a sluggish session in the red. The index has still lost more than 20 percent this year.
In Seoul, the Kospi index added 0.52 percent to end at 891.29 while Kuala Lumpur's KLSE Composite lost 0.69 percent to 981.57 and the JSX index in Jakarta added 0.6 percent at 588.73.
-- from staff and wire reports