LONDON (CNNfn) - Hong Kong and Singapore led a broad rally among Asian stock markets Monday, their blue-chip indexes both gaining about 3 percent as investors piled into banking, technology and telecom shares. Tokyo closed 1.6 percent higher at a 32-month high.|
The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong raced up 508 points, or 2.9 percent, to end at a record close of 18,292.86, some 65 points below its session high. Investors seized on a combination of buoyant earnings reports, an encouraging session on the U.S. Nasdaq market Friday and a further easing of the tensions between China and Taiwan that had blighted the market in recent weeks.
The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo recovered from early weakness to close up 323 points, or 1.6 percent, at 20,281.03, with financial and industrial shares moving strongly ahead while technology stocks remained out of favor.
Singapore's Straits Times index was even stronger, jumping 70.3 points, or 3.3 percent, to 2,216.5, with tech stocks the main driver. Singapore Airlines also made strong gains as Australian rival Qantas squared up in a bid to thwart SIA's bid to acquire a stake in Air New Zealand.
In the currency markets, the dollar traded at ¥106.84 in Tokyo, little changed from its level in late trading Friday in New York. The euro was also flat against the dollar, trading at $0.9779, just ahead of its end-of-week close.
The Hong Kong market gained 4 percent last week and continued its strong run Monday, with bank HSBC Holdings, the largest component, vaulting almost 2.7 percent while Dao Heng Bank surged 12.3 percent after posting a 57 percent rise in full-year net earnings.
Conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa also benefited from strong earnings, rising 2.8 percent after it said profit rose13 percent in 1999. Parent Cheung Kong (Holdings) added 1.8 percent.
Telecom stocks were also in boisterous form, with Cable & Wireless HKT adding 2.8 percent ahead of a board meeting Tuesday to review a $35.9 billion takeover bid. Shares of the buyer, Pacific Century CyberWorks, gained more than 3 percent, while China Telecom rose 4.1 percent.
Tokyo's recovery in afternoon trade reflected strong gains among a slew of "old-economy" stocks. Mitsubishi Motor surged 12.2 percent ahead of the formal announcement that DaimlerChrysler (FDCX) would take a 34 percent stake for 2.1 billion ($2 billion).
Nippon Steel was the most heavily traded share, rising 2.6 percent as it mulled a merger with Sumitomo Metal Industries, whose stock jumped 7.7 percent.
Nippon Paper jumped almost 15 percent amid speculation it may tie with rival Daishowa, which could see the pair setting up a joint holding company ahead of a full merger.
Sony Corp. recovered from a morning dip into the red to close up 2.7 percent.
Techs were again the weak link, with Internet investor Softbank slumping 6 percent to extend recent declines. The stock lost 13 percent Friday after the company announced plans to sell more shares.
Among smaller markets, Taiwan's Weighted index posted the strongest gains, surging 3.43 percent to close at 9,807.57 as investors bought tech stocks and reacted positively to the easing of tensions with China.
The PHS Composite in Manila closed up 0.9 percent at 1,697.25 after the government moved to end a fraud scandal that has rocked the market in recent weeks. The appointment of a new stock exchange chief helped boost confidence in the market and attracted buyers back to blue-chip shares.
Kuala Lumpur's KLSE Composite was 1.7 percent higher at 987.04.
The All Ordinaries in Sydney ended 0.7 percent lower at 3,225.30 and the Kospi in Seoul shed 0.15 percent to 886.71. The Set 50 in Bangkok ended 1.6 percent higher at 410.53 and the JSX in Jakarta added 0.35 percent to close at 583.52.
-- from staff and wire reports