Asian markets hit new heights
(Baystreet Foreign Markets Wrap (Canada) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge)
An improved economic outlook boosted Asian markets Wednesday, lifting stocks in Hong Kong and Australia to near two-year highs, while Japanese shares ended at their highest level in 33 months, also fueled by earnings optimism.
In Japan, the Nikkei 225 Index zoomed 247.23 points, or 2.3%, to 11,113.95, to end at its best level since April 27, 2010.
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index regained 166.89 points, or 0.7%, to 23,822.06, to hit its highest perch since April 2011.
The region-wide advance came ahead of the conclusion of the U.S. Federal Reserve's two-day policy meeting later in the day, with investors on alert for any signals about the duration of the Fed's bond-buying program.
Earnings optimism gave the Japanese market an additional boost Wednesday.
Yahoo Japan Corp. surged 17.1% after the company's upbeat quarterly results and announcement of a share buy back.
Telecom firms also saw earnings-related buying. Softbank Corp. jumped 3.6% after the Nikkei reported that the wireless carrier is expected to post a 10% gain for its April-December operating profit, helped by sales of Apple Inc.'s iPhone.
Shares of rival KDDI Corp. which also sells the iPhone, and announced a 40% increase in its quarterly operating profit Monday advanced 3.1%, on top of Tuesday's 2.8% rise.
Also among the wireless carriers, NTT DoCoMo Inc. climbed 1%, underperforming the broader market after a separate Nikkei report tipped a 9% decline in the firm's nine-month operating profit.
Central Japan Railway Co. jumped 6.6% after reporting a 49% rise in nine-month net profit, while fellow rail-operator Keisei Electric Railway Co. rose 1.9%.
Some retailers also advanced after data showing a better-than-expected increase in Japanese retail sales for December. Fast Retailing Co. rallied 4.3%, while Takashimaya Co. gained 2.4%.
In Hong Kong, companies exposed to the global economy pulled higher, with ports operator China Merchants Holdings International Co. gaining 2.2%, while industry peer Cosco Pacific Ltd. rose 1.7%.
In Seoul, Samsung Electronics Inc. climbed 2.2%, while rival chip maker SK Hynix Inc. rose 0.6% after swinging to a quarterly profit, thanks to rising chip demand after the release of new smartphones and other devices.
Major mineral extractors paced the advance in Sydney, with Rio Tinto Ltd. gaining 1.5%, and BHP Billiton Ltd. climbing 1.2%.
Those gains offset losses for consumer-staples firms, including Coles supermarket owner Wesfarmers Ltd., which fell 1.8% after reporting second-quarter sales figures.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard surprised the country Wednesday by announcing that the next general election will be held on Sept. 14.
In other markets
The Shanghai CSI 300 took on 12.85 points, or 0.5%, to 2,688.71
In Singapore, the Straits Times Index recovered 26.15 points, or 0.8%, to 3,285.90
Korea's Kospi Index added 8.47 points, or 0.4%, to 1,964.43
Taiwan's Taiex Index improved 30.98 points, or 0.4%, to 7,832.98
The NZX 50 chugged higher by 47.26 points, or 1.1%, to 4,247.55
In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 gained 7.72 points, or 0.2%, to 4,896.69, to run its win streak to 10 straight sessions and reach its highest closing values since April 2011
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