CANBERA (Alliance News) - Asian stocks ended mixed on Monday, as weak cues from the US and European markets offset growing investor confidence in China's economy. With geopolitical concerns persisting and the US Federal Reserve's two-day polity meeting getting underway this week, underlying sentiment remained somewhat cautious.
Japanese shares hit a fresh six-month high on expectations for robust earnings from major firms. The benchmark Nikkei average rose 0.46% to 15,529.40, its highest level since January 23, while the broader Topix index added 0.4%. The Nikkei ended above the 15,500 level for the first time in nearly six months. Resona Holdings Inc. soared 5.4% after the company said it would buy back preferred shares.
Mobile phone carrier NTT DoCoMo rose 1.6% on a brokerage upgrade. Rival SoftBank Corp edged up 0.3% and KDDI rallied 1.5%. Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings Corp. jumped 3.6% on a report it would post 25% growth in group operating profit for the quarter ended June 30. General contractor Obayashi rose 1.7% and Kajima gained a percent on a Nikkei report the Abe administration would allow the establishment of casinos before the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Nissan Motor closed up 0.8% before announcing its Q1 results later in the day. Canon edged up 0.2% after posting better-than-expected quarterly profit. Fujitsu dropped a percent. The company is likely to post a group operating profit of slightly more than 5 billion yen in the second quarter, the Nikkei reported. Semiconductor equipment maker Tokyo Electron fell 2.7%, realty firm Sumitomo Realty & Development lost a percent and oil and gas firm Inpex Corp slid 0.9%.
Chinese shares rallied, with the benchmark Shanghai Composite index gaining 2.41% to its highest level since December 13, as banks rallied on a report Bank of Communications plans to sell more stakes to private investors. Hong Kong'sHang Seng index, meanwhile, rose 0.88% to 24,428.63, its highest level in over 3-1/2 years.
In economic releases, profits of Chinese industrial firms increased at an accelerated pace in June, a report from the National Bureau of Statistics showed, adding to evidence that the world's second-largest economy is gaining strength. Profits rose 17.9% year-over-year, up sharply from an 8.9% increase in the previous month. Total industrial profits in the January to June period rose 11.4% compared to the corresponding period of the previous year.
Australian shares fell marginally, dragged down by banks as the earnings season got underway. Both the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 and the broader All Ordinaries index slipped about 0.1% each to 5,577.4 and 5,569.9 points respectively. Westpac, Commonwealth and ANZ fell between 0.2% and 0.7%. NAB shares rose 0.3%. The lender announced that it has sold some of its British commercial real estate loans portfolio for about AUD1.14 billion to an affiliate of US-based private equity firm Cerberus Global Investors.
In the mining sector, BHP Billiton shares gained 0.3% after the resources giant said it plans to step up trials of a hi-tech method for extracting copper and uranium from its massive Olympic Dam mine in Australia from late 2016. Rio Tinto advanced 0.4%, smaller rival Fortescue Metals Group rallied 3.7% and gold miner Newcrest added 0.8%.
Leighton Holdings dropped 2.4%. The construction firm reiterated its full-year earnings guidance despite reporting a 20% decline in first-half profit. Education provider Navitas tumbled 3.7% on reporting a 31% drop in full-year profit. REA Group shed 0.6%. The online real estate giant has acquired a 17.22% stake in a South East Asian property business for USD106.3 million. Drug developer Clinuvel Pharmaceuticals soared 29.4% after receiving an unsolicited USD95 million takeover offer from Retrophin.
Seoul shares rose notably, with sentiment underpinned by positive industrial profits data from China, the country's largest trading partner, and comments made by Finance Minister Choi Kyung-hwan that local shares are undervalued compared to the strength of the economy. The benchmark Kospi average closed up 0.74% at 2,048.81, its highest closing level this year.
New Zealand shares drifted lower, snapping a six-day winning streak, as investors stayed on the sidelines awaiting cues from the corporate earnings season. The benchmark NZX-50 index slipped 0.14% to 5,187.14. Biotechnology firm Pacific Edge led the decliners, falling 5.4% to 70 cents, while national carrier Air New Zealand fell 2.6% to its lowest level since March.
Elsewhere, India's Sensex was moving down 0.7% and the Taiwan Weighted average slipped 0.2%, while the markets in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia were closed for Eid-il-Fitri celebrations.
On Wall Street, stocks finished lower on Friday as disappointing earnings from Amazon and Visa's disappointing outlook added to ongoing worries over geopolitical unrest in Ukraine and the Middle East. Investors, meanwhile, largely shrugged off a report showing a bigger-than-expected rebound in durable goods orders in June after a decline the previous month. The Dow dropped 0.7%, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq and the S&P 500 slid about half a percent each.