News Column

Asian Stocks Climb As Geopolitical Tensions Ease

July 22, 2014

CANBERA (Alliance News) - Asian stocks rose broadly on Tuesday, with the regional benchmark index touching a three-year high, as investors shrugged off concerns about crises in Ukraine and Gaza and turned their focus to US corporate earnings. Investors hunted for bargains after Ukraine's pro-Russian rebels agreed last night to hand over bodies of crash victims and give international investigators safe access to the site in Ukraine where Malaysia Airlines flight 17 was brought down last week, killing all 298 people aboard.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Cairo Monday night to work out a cease-fire that would halt the intensifying fighting in Gaza. Kerry is seeking "an immediate cessation of hostilities based on a return to the November 2012 cease-fire agreement" and the protection of civilians "in Gaza and in Israel," according to the White House.

Chinese shares posted strong gains, as metal prices rose and automakers advanced on news government agencies will take the lead on purchases of electric, hybrid or plug-in vehicles. The benchmark Shanghai Composite index gained 1.02% to finish at 2,075.48, its highest level since June 16.

Hong Kong'sHang Seng index jumped 1.69% to 23,782.11, with mainland property developers rising sharply on reports more cities have eased property market restrictions.

Japanese shares rose sharply playing catch up with the region as trading resumed after a market holiday yesterday. The Nikkei average rose 0.84% to 15,343.28 after falling a percent to a one-week low on Friday. Metal stocks gained ground, with Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Group, Sumitomo Metal Mining and Pacific Metals rising 3-4%.

The yen weakened against its rivals, lifting exporter shares. Canon, Toyota Motor, Mazda Motor, Honda Motor, Sharp Corp, Kyocera, Fanuc, Hitachi and Nikon rose between 0.3% and 2.4%. Panasonic Corp. rose 1.8% on a report it has reached a basic agreement to sell its mobile-phone base-station assets to Nokia Corp.Inpex Corp gained a percent and Showa Shell Sekiyu KK rallied 2.7% as crude prices held steady on worries over escalating geopolitical tensions.

In economic news, the Japanese government today downgraded its growth outlook for the fiscal year 2014, citing weak exports and subdued demand after the sales tax hike in April. The Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy, the top advisory panel, said the real gross domestic product will grow 1.2% this fiscal instead of 1.4% estimated in January.

Australian shares rose marginally to close at six-year highs as oil and metal prices gained ground. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index closed up 0.06% at 5,543.3. Miners paced the gainers, with BHP Billiton rising 0.8% and Rio Tinto adding 0.7%, while Fortescue Metals Group, Iluka Resources, Bluescope Steel and Alumina climbed 1-4%. Newcrest Mining, which is facing a class action by shareholders over its massive write-down in 2013, ended down 0.3%.

In the banking sector, Westpac rose 0.1%, while ANZ, Commonwealth and NAB fell between 0.1% and 0.2%. Oil exploration and production company Oil Search advanced 0.4% after confirming its full-year guidance. Caltex Australia ended little changed with a positive bias and Santos gained 0.6%, but Woodside Petroleum fell 0.8% and Origin Energy dropped 0.2%.

In economic releases, the ANZ-Roy Morgan's consumer confidence index rose to 113.5 in the third week of July, up from 108.7 in the previous week, aided by news of the carbon tax's repeal and other Senate ruction around government policies.

Seoul shares gained ground after Finance Minister Choi Kyung-hwan asked the business community to actively work on investment and job creation with entrepreneurship to revitalize the slowing economic recovery. Choi promised to "break the low growth cycle" by using more aggressive monetary policies. The country's benchmark index, the Kospi, rose 0.52% to 2,028.93, its highest level in almost eight months.

New Zealand stocks closed mostly lower, although the benchmark index finished in positive territory with a 0.14% gain. Milk marketing firm A2 Milk Co soared 6.6% from a 15-month low after the company won Chinese regulatory approval to export its a2 Platinum infant formula. Growth stocks led the declines, with Pacific Edge and Diligent Board Member Services falling about 3% each.

Telecommunications network operator Chorus eased 0.3% after the Commerce Commission said it would investigate a claim against the company over its proposed changes to wholesale broadband services.

Elsewhere, India's Sensex was adding 0.8%, extending gains for a sixth consecutive session, driven by renewed foreign fund flows. The benchmark indexes in Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan were up between 0.1% and 0.6%, while Indonesia's Jakarta Composite index was losing 0.8% before the release of presidential election results due today.

The World Bank marginally lowered its forecast on Indonesia's annual growth rate for 2014 and called for deeper structural reforms such as fuel subsidy reform and more infrastructure investments to achieve longer term goals such as lifting growth above 6%.

Taiwan's unemployment rate decreased slightly in June, defying economist estimates for a rise, as the number of unemployed edged down, a government report showed.

US stocks ended slightly lower overnight as investors digested mixed quarterly results and remained cautious about ongoing developments in Ukraine and Gaza. The major averages fell between 0.2% and 0.3% after Friday's sharp gains.

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Source: Alliance News

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