Sun, Jan 02, 2011 - Page 10 News List

Asian stocks soar as worries fade

Agencies, with staff writer

Asian stocks advanced last year, capping the MSCI Asia-Pacific Index’s biggest two-year gain since 2004, as improving corporate earnings and US economic stimulus measures offset concern over Europe’s sovereign debt crisis and China’s anti-inflation measures.

The MSCI Asia-Pacific Index climbed 14.3 percent last year to 137.70, extending 2009’s 34 percent gain, supported by central banks cutting borrowing costs and governments boosting spending to shore up their economies to tackle the global recession. The Asia-Pacific gauge sank by a record in 2008 as the credit crisis and a deepening global recession pummeled corporate profits around the world.

Taiwan’s TAIEX rose 64.60 or 0.7 percent, to 8,972.50 at the 1:30pm close on Friday, the highest since May 22, 2008. The gauge rose 784.39 points, or 9.6 percent, last year, extending 2009’s 78 percent rally.

Genius Electronic Optical Co (玉晶光電), a lens maker, is the index’s best performer this year with a 574 percent surge, while Chunghwa Picture Tubes Ltd (中華映管), a flat-panel maker, is the worst with a 55 percent slump.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index climbed 5.3 percent in the past year, extending 2009’s 52 percent increase, the steepest since 1999. South Korea’s KOSPI jumped 22 percent, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index declined 2.6 percent.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average lost 3 percent, as a strengthening yen dimmed the earnings prospects of some of the nation’s exporters. The yen was at its strongest annual average level since currencies began trading freely in 1971, according to data compiled by Bloomberg and based on each day’s closing price.

China’s Shanghai Composite Index declined 14 percent, the worst performer in Asia, as the government ordered banks to set aside more reserves six times last year and boosted rates to tame inflation and curb asset bubbles following record gains in lending and property prices. The benchmark also posted the biggest decline among 15 of the world’s largest stock markets.

Material, energy and industrial stocks rose the most among the 10 industry groups tracked on the MSCI Asia-Pacific Index last year, where stocks are valued at 14.8 times estimated earnings on average, compared with 14.7 times for the US Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and 12.3 for the Europe STOXX 600 Index.

The MSCI Asia-Pacific Index’s gains for last year take its two-year advance to 54 percent, the steepest since the period ended December 2004, when the region emerged from a retreat triggered by the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2000. Gains in 2009 — following 2008’s record 43 percent drop — were spurred by record lending and government stimulus measures in China, which helped pull the world economy out of recession.

Indian shares ended the year up, with the leading 30-share SENSEX adding 120.02 points or 0.59 percent on Friday to 20,509.09.

The SENSEX, which reached a record intra-day high in early November of more than 21,000 points, added 3,044,28 points year-on-year, a rise of 17.43 percent

Manila edged up 1.83 points to 4,201.14 on the last trading day of the year. The index has gained 38 percent over the past 12 months, making it one of the most successful in the region this year.

Wellington was up 2.44 percent for the year at 3,309.03.

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