HONG KONG (MarketWatch) — Asian stocks extended gains Friday as investors held on to hopes U.S. lawmakers could still reach an agreement before the year-end to avert the fiscal cliff, with Japanese shares ending 2012 on a high note as the yen fell to levels it hasn’t seen since 2010.
On the last trading day of 2012, the Nikkei Stock Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK -0.62% ended 0.7% higher, clinching a near-23% gain for the full year — its best yearly performance since 2005. Japanese markets will be closed Monday for New Year’s Eve.
Elsewhere, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI +0.27% edged 0.2% higher, China’s Shanghai Composite Index /zigman2/quotes/206600939/delayed CN:000001 +4.12% climbed 1.2% and Taiwan’s Taiex gained 0.7%.
The broad region-wide rally came as President Barack Obama called on congressional leaders to the White House Friday for talks on a pact to avoid imminent tax increases and spending cuts that are feared to potentially drag the world’s largest economy into a recession.
“With U.S. President Barack Obama having reportedly cut his holiday short, and returning to Washington to meet U.S. leaders for last ditch talks, there is growing optimism that a deal can be knocked before the deadline,” said Stan Shamu, a markets strategist at IG Markets.
Many Tokyo-listed exporters climbed further, extending a rally that has tracked the yen’s sharp drop in recent weeks, as the U.S. dollar /zigman2/quotes/210561789/realtime/sampled USDJPY +0.0250% stayed above ¥86 — a level the greenback hasn’t seen since August 2010.
Nikon Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203281219/delayed JP:7731 +2.37% /zigman2/quotes/203151879/delayed NINOF +0.14% added 2.3%, Nintendo Co. /zigman2/quotes/208063194/delayed JP:7974 -0.18% /zigman2/quotes/206371241/delayed NTDOF -0.93% jumped 4% and Mazda Motor Corp. /zigman2/quotes/204777714/delayed JP:7261 +0.13% /zigman2/quotes/206646681/delayed MZDAF -6.67% rose 4.8%.
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Jobless claims fall by more than expected, and new home sales rise to the highest levels in over two years. Photo: AP.
Toshiba Corp. /zigman2/quotes/205628942/delayed JP:6502 -0.97% /zigman2/quotes/204149068/delayed TOSYY -2.18% jumped 5%. In news related to the company, The Wall Street Journal quoted its president as saying the firm it was in talks to sell up to 16% of its Westinghouse Electric Co. nuclear-power unit.
Sharp Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203224600/delayed JP:6753 +4.74% /zigman2/quotes/207472799/delayed SHCAF +5.20% finished 1% up in the upbeat market, but off the highs of the day, after an Asahi Shimbun report said Taiwanese partner Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. /zigman2/quotes/207256514/delayed TW:2317 -0.43% /zigman2/quotes/205520950/delayed HNHPF -2.54% was reluctant to buy a Chinese plant Sharp has been trying to sell.
Hon Hai shares fell 0.1% in Taipei. Read: Hon Hai reluctant to buy Sharp’s China plant.
Toyota Motor Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203803129/delayed JP:7203 -1.65% /zigman2/quotes/200537742/composite TM -1.94% rose 1.9%, adding to Thursday’s 2.6% rally, despite news it agreed to pay $1.1 billion to settle a U.S. class-action lawsuit.
The yen’s weak performance during the session came after official data released earlier in the day showed a larger-than-expected drop for November industrial output. Read: Weak Japan data likely to fuel calls for easing
Japanese utilities traded lower, meanwhile. Tokyo Electric Power Co. /zigman2/quotes/202771076/delayed JP:9501 -0.92% /zigman2/quotes/204529331/delayed TKECF -0.44% sank 6.4% after saying Thursday it would seek addition financial aid from the government towards compensation for last year’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, according to a Kyodo News report.
Brokerage stocks were a bright spot in Hong Kong trade, with Haitong Securities Co. /zigman2/quotes/207313420/delayed HK:6837 -0.41% adding 6.9%, and Citic Securities Co. /zigman2/quotes/208139708/delayed HK:6030 +0.53% soaring 10.7% as mainland Chinese stocks turned positive for the year, riding on the back of strong recent gains.
An advance for metals prices helped spur buying in resource shares across Asia.
Australia’s key mining sector traded mostly higher, as BHP Billiton Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/201448516/delayed AU:BHP +1.65% /zigman2/quotes/208108397/composite BHP -4.43% advanced 1.1%, Rio Tinto Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/200083756/delayed AU:RIO +0.72% /zigman2/quotes/202627887/composite RIO -5.15% rose 1.7%, and Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/202351558/delayed AU:FMG +1.70% /zigman2/quotes/204116626/delayed FSUMF -1.59% gained 2.4%.
In Seoul, Samsung Electronics Co. /zigman2/quotes/209800866/delayed KR:005930 -1.90% /zigman2/quotes/202367843/delayed SSNLF 0.00% rose 1.7%, while LG Display Co. /zigman2/quotes/204226570/delayed KR:034220 -2.09% /zigman2/quotes/204466928/composite LPL -1.86% gained 0.3%. Dow Jones Newswires reported the latter had filed an injunction seeking a ban on the sales of a Samsung tablet computer over alleged patent violations.
Top auto makers Hyundai Motor Co. /zigman2/quotes/206684590/delayed KR:005380 -4.19% /zigman2/quotes/203763750/delayed HYMLY 0.00% and Kia Motors Corp. /zigman2/quotes/206019389/delayed KR:000270 -3.66% fell 2% and 1.2%, respectively, amid concern the falling yen might boost Japanese auto makers at the expense of their Korean rivals.