Thu, Jan 29, 2009 - Page 6 News List

South Korea leads as Asian bourses rise on US earnings

AP , BANGKOK

Most Asian stock markets rose yesterday, with South Korea’s benchmark jumping nearly 6 percent in a catch-up rally, after US earnings showed companies are still scraping together profits despite the worst recession in decades.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock average rose 45.22 points, or 0.6 percent, to 8,106.29 while South Korea’s benchmark surged 5.9 percent to 1,157.98 after being closed for holidays on Monday and Tuesday.

Singapore’s market, which was also closed for the previous two sessions, gained 1.7 percent.

Australia’s main stock measure rose 1.5 percent.

Markets in Taiwan and China are closed all week for the Lunar New Year.

Hong Kong’s markets reopen today.

Sentiment in Asia got a boost as profits from US Steel, American Express, chip-maker Texas Instruments Inc and movie rental company Netflix Inc reassured investors that while the fourth quarter was generally terrible for US companies, it wasn’t the disaster many had feared.

The imminent passage by the US House of Representatives of a US$825 billion stimulus bill, which backers say could create up to 4 million jobs, also lent some support to markets.

The legislation, which includes roughly US$550 billion in spending and US$275 billion in tax cuts, could be signed by US President Barack Obama by the middle of next month.

The Dow Jones Industrials rose 58.70, or 0.72 percent, to 8,174.73 on Tuesday even as US consumer confidence slipped this month to its lowest level since the inception of the Conference Board’s index in 1967.

The broader Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 9.14, or 1.1 percent, to 845.71.

The NASDAQ composite index rose 15.44, or 1 percent, on Tuesday to 1,504.90.

In Tokyo, Nomura Holdings Inc fell 1.7 percent a day after reporting a record loss for the third quarter as market turmoil and the heavy burden of its global ambitions dragged Japan’s biggest brokerage deeper into the red.

But megabank Mitsubish UFJ Finance gained 1.2 percent ahead of quarterly earnings. After the market closed, the bank said April-last month net profit plunged nearly 74 percent as a result of the global financial turmoil.

“Certainly, there is considerable nervousness about earnings, but today’s rise [in the Nikkei] is basically due to the euro’s climb against the yen,” said Nakayuki Yamagishi, a strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Securities in Tokyo.

Sony Corp and Nintendo Co are scheduled to release quarterly results today.

Banks rallied in Seoul, catching up to gains by other Asian financial stocks in the wake of British lender Barclays saying it will still book a profit for last year despite massive writedowns.

KB Financial Group, the holding company for South Korea’s largest lender, Kookmin Bank, surged 11 percent.

South Korean chipmaker Samsung Electronics jumped 10.5 percent on hopes it would benefit from the collapse of German rival Qimonda, which recently filed for insolvency protection.

Meanwhile, Japanese memory chipmaker Elpida Memory Inc jumped 9.1 percent in Tokyo.

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