MUMBAI (MarketWatch) — Asia markets ended modestly higher after a choppy session on Friday, with some energy shares supported as oil prices continued to rise, while recent strength limited sharper gains.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO +0.43% gained 0.5% and China’s Shanghai Composite /zigman2/quotes/206600939/delayed CN:000001 +0.26% rose 1.3%, while South Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 +0.07% ended up 0.6% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI +0.46% added 0.1%.
Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK +0.89% rose 0.5%.
“Asian markets have performed quite strongly over the past few weeks,” said Conita Hung, head of equity markets at Delta Asian Financial Group in Hong Kong. “It’s hard to enter into the markets at these levels,” she said, adding selected stocks in “energy and raw materials were still gaining some support.”
The performance in Asia comes after U.S. shares had advanced on Thursday, with the S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +0.47% near 10-month highs, as better-than-expected jobs and home-price data buoyed sentiment. Read more on the U.S. session.
A key index of German business confidence also beat expectations, shedding positive light on Europe’s largest economy. Read more on German business confidence.
“Optimism keeps going with solid data in Europe and the US,” Kintai Cheung, a strategist at Credit Agricole said. “As Greek crisis appears to be easing, more attention may shift to the tensions in Iran, which had pushed up oil prices sharply.”
Surging oil prices helped boost some Asian energy shares. Benchmark crude-oil futures /zigman2/quotes/209724585/delayed CLJ22 +0.33% broke through $108 a barrel in electronic trading, after hitting a nine-month high in New York trading. Read more on Thursday's oil session.
Tokyo-listed Inpex Corp. /zigman2/quotes/206689846/delayed JP:1605 +0.05% /zigman2/quotes/207958170/delayed IPXHY +0.37% rose 5.1% and Japan Petroleum Exploration Co. /zigman2/quotes/201212147/delayed JP:1662 -0.80% /zigman2/quotes/202925532/delayed JPTXF -1.12% added 3%.
In Sydney, AGL Energy Ltd. traded down 4.7% after the firm posted a drop in first-half net profit and said it will raise 1.5 billion Australian dollars ($1.6 billion) from share issues to help buy Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s /zigman2/quotes/202771076/delayed JP:9501 -0.46% /zigman2/quotes/204529331/delayed TKECF +0.05% interest in the Loy Yang power station. Shares of Tokyo Electric Power, better known as Tepco, lost 2.4% in Japan trading.
Newcrest Mining Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/203840223/delayed AU:NCM 0.00% /zigman2/quotes/203286036/delayed NCMGY +2.85% dropped 4.3% in Sydney after the gold miner said difficulties at its Lihir mine were expected to impair quarterly production.
But metals shares moved higher in Tokyo, with Nippon Steel Corp. /zigman2/quotes/209782682/delayed JP:5401 -3.58% /zigman2/quotes/203679980/delayed NISTF +1.77% gaining 3.5% and Sumitomo Metal Industries Ltd. up 3.7%.
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Among exporters making ground in Tokyo, Sony Corp. /zigman2/quotes/201361720/delayed JP:6758 +1.45% /zigman2/quotes/208567357/composite SNE +0.65% got a 3% bounce, Pioneer Corp. rose 2.5% and Mazda Motor Corp. /zigman2/quotes/204777714/delayed JP:7261 -0.11% /zigman2/quotes/206326885/delayed MZDAY -0.13% climbed 0.7%.
J. Front Retailing Co. /zigman2/quotes/209287176/delayed JP:3086 -0.31% rose 1.5% on a Nikkei business daily report that it would buy shopping-mall firm Parco Co. /zigman2/quotes/201741999/delayed JP:8251 +0.16% , paying a sharp premium for some of the shares. Shares of Parco remained bid-only at the end of the morning trading session in Tokyo.
In Hong Kong, Esprit Holdings Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/205943307/delayed HK:330 0.00% /zigman2/quotes/206195919/delayed ESPGY +5.26% recovered from an earlier slump to end fractionally higher. Several brokers, including UBS and Citigroup downgraded the stock after the fashion retailer posted a 74% drop in first-half net profit on Thursday. Read more on Esprit’s profit plunge.
Property developers dragged in Hong Kong. Sino Land Co. /zigman2/quotes/202960683/delayed HK:83 +0.36% /zigman2/quotes/206858840/delayed SNLAY -0.45% dropped 1.1% and Hang Lung Properties Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/200230831/delayed HK:101 +0.33% /zigman2/quotes/205863241/delayed HLPPY +0.09% eased 1%.
“Most Hong Kong investors are waiting to see HBSC’s /zigman2/quotes/202687335/delayed HK:5 -1.30% result on Monday, they are sidelined ahead of the result which may have a major impact on the market,” Delta Asian Financial Group’s Hung said.