HONG KONG (MarketWatch) — Asian markets ended higher Tuesday, with gains in Woodside Petroleum Ltd. helping lift Australia’s main share index to a three-and-a-half month high, while mainland China stocks were helped by state media reports of policy plans to boost consumption spending.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO +0.54% rose 0.4% to 4,402.7, its highest closing level since May 4.
The Shanghai Composite Index /zigman2/quotes/206600939/delayed CN:000001 -0.33% advanced 0.5% and the Shenzhen Composite Index added 1.4%.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI -0.38% ended little changed, shedding 4 points, dragged down by weakness in Cnooc. /zigman2/quotes/204964401/composite CEO +1.53% , /zigman2/quotes/203421416/delayed HK:883 +0.99% The oil giant’s shares fell 3%, as investors reacted to its sharper-than-expected drop in first-half profit. Read more on Cnooc earnings.
Regionally, stocks were higher, with the Asia Dow edging up 0.5% to 2,727 in late afternoon trades in east Asia.
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Asian stocks have gained between 0.4% and 5.3% so far this month, but Credit Agricole strategists said that they expected range-trading in Asia as “investors await Federal Open Market Committee minutes tomorrow and potential euro-zone decisions on its sovereign-debt crisis later in the week.”
Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney, said: “we have arrived at valuation levels where investors will find it more difficult to buy aggressively without more certainty on proposed European initiatives.”
Stimulus optimism emerged on Tuesday, after a report Tuesday in the state-run Xinhua news agency’s Economic Information Daily, which said China is considering the introduction of measures to boost domestic consumption this year. Such measures would likely include encouraging the use of credit, the report said without citing sources.
Among Shanghai car makers, Dongfeng Automobile Co. /zigman2/quotes/204035591/delayed CN:600006 +0.74% gave up gains to end unchanged for the session, while SAIC Motor Corp. /zigman2/quotes/201442870/delayed CN:600104 +1.01% advanced 0.3%.
Energy firms led the way higher in Australia.
Woodside Petroleum Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/203437212/delayed AU:WPL +0.80% /zigman2/quotes/206770672/delayed WOPEF +3.37% advanced 2.5% after Chevron Corp. /zigman2/quotes/205871374/composite CVX +0.45% and Royal Dutch Shell PLC /zigman2/quotes/206428183/delayed UK:RDSA +0.73% /zigman2/quotes/205095589/composite RDS.A +0.02% agreed Monday to swap stakes in Australian natural-gas assets, including Woodside-operated Browse. Read more on Chevron, Shell deal.
While Cnooc weighed on Hong Kong, some gains helped limit the index’s losses, including a 2.2% rise for casino operator Sands China Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/207609245/delayed HK:1928 -0.87% /zigman2/quotes/201078396/delayed SCHYY +0.25% , a 1.5% advance for Aluminum Corp. of China /zigman2/quotes/202960704/delayed HK:2600 +0.44% /zigman2/quotes/208051344/composite ACH +0.27% and a 6% surge for Tingyi Holding Corp. /zigman2/quotes/208969648/delayed HK:322 -0.68% /zigman2/quotes/208456721/delayed TCYMY -2.30% after Credit Suisse upgraded it to outperform from neutral.
Hong Kong-listed shares of mainland China retailer GOME Electrical Appliances /zigman2/quotes/209097490/delayed HK:493 0.00% rallied 14% on news of possible government initiatives to boost consumer spending.
Tokyo trading saw games firm Konami Corp. /zigman2/quotes/204275993/delayed JP:9766 +2.91% climb 3.6%, while Nintendo Co. /zigman2/quotes/206371241/delayed NTDOF +1.11% advanced 2.2% after it released its 3DS XL portable game system in the U.S.
Broker ratings helped some Japanese firms as well, with Fujitsu Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/208459594/delayed JP:6702 -0.39% /zigman2/quotes/208783738/delayed FJTSY +1.55% , higher by 3.7% following a Citigroup upgrade to buy from neutral, according to Dow Jones Newswires.
However, the broker also downgraded Japanese shipping firm Mitsui O.S. K. Lines Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/204152844/delayed JP:9104 +2.25% /zigman2/quotes/207984028/delayed MSLOY -10.46% ,to neutral from buy, with the move working to send the firm’s shares down 2.7%.
/zigman2/quotes/204002437/delayed 6301 2,317.50, +20.50, +0.89%
Machinery firms also weighed on the Tokyo market, with Hitachi Construction Machinery Co. /zigman2/quotes/205375504/delayed JP:6305 +1.60% /zigman2/quotes/202936726/delayed HTCMF +16.87% down 3% and Komatsu Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/204002437/delayed JP:6301 +0.89% /zigman2/quotes/205979659/delayed KMTUY -0.81% losing 2.8% after SMBC Nikko Securities cut its stance on both firms to neutral from outperform, in part due to lower sales in China.
In Korean trade, LG Chem Inc. declined 0.9% after the firm said it’s under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for possible price-fixing of lithium batteries. Read more on probe of LG Chem.
However, the Seoul market found support from chip maker SK Hynix Inc. /zigman2/quotes/203669196/delayed HXSCL 0.00% , up 2.8%.
In other regional action, India’s Senex was up 0.6% late in trading, and Singapore’s Straits Times Index added 0.2%. Both markets were closed Monday for public holidays.