HONG KONG (MarketWatch) — Japanese stocks soared Friday in a post-holiday catch-up rally that was aided again by a weaker yen, while most other Asian markets fell on concerns U.S. central bankers were considering an end to their bond-buying program.
The Nikkei Stock Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK -3.34% jumped 2.8% to 10,688.11, ending at a level not seen since early March of 2011. The rally came as trading began in Tokyo for the first time in this calendar year, and after U.S. lawmakers signed an agreement to avert the worst of the fiscal cliff.
/zigman2/quotes/210561789/realtime/sampled USDJPY 110.4770, -0.2410, -0.2177%
But other markets that had already enjoyed fiscal-cliff relief rallies pared their recent gains. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO -1.60% , South Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 +1.18% and Taiwan’s Taiex each lost 0.4%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI +0.27% fell 0.3% after recent gains.
The Shanghai Composite Index /zigman2/quotes/206600939/delayed CN:000001 -1.25% ended 0.4% higher, unable to rally as hard as stocks in Japan, as investors held out hopes for Beijing to enact large, market-friendly pro-growth measures.
“You still have to wait for the officials to announce some meaningful policies to spur the financial markets,” said Lyncean Securities’s Managing Director Francis Lun, who believes that such major reforms remain unlikely for now.
Overnight, U.S. stocks ended lower after the Fed minutes showed the central bank’s bond purchases would likely cease by the end of the year, with investors also preparing for the December employment report due later Friday. Read: U.S. stocks drop after Fed signals end to bond buys.
More recently, Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -3.56% futures slipped 0.1% and S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -3.35% futures were marginally lower.
But stocks in Japan posted solid gains, with a wide swathe of major exporters rising sharply as the dollar /zigman2/quotes/210561789/realtime/sampled USDJPY -0.2177% weakened to near ¥88, up from the ¥86 level last week, before the Tokyo stock market closed for holidays. Read: Dollar climbs ahead of jobs data.
What Google wants from North Korea
Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson will be taking Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt on a humanitarian visit to North Korea. But why would an Internet company want to visit the most isolated country in the world?
Hitachi Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/203839937/delayed JP:6501 -3.78% /zigman2/quotes/203416411/delayed HTHIF +2.28% surged 5.2%, Bridgestone Corp. /zigman2/quotes/205589013/delayed JP:5108 -2.98% /zigman2/quotes/201520388/delayed BRDCF -9.21% rocketed up 7.5%, Toyota Motor Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203803129/delayed JP:7203 -3.36% /zigman2/quotes/200537742/composite TM -3.27% jumped 6.4% and Honda Motor Co. /zigman2/quotes/200490352/delayed JP:7267 -3.42% /zigman2/quotes/207173990/composite HMC -3.73% added 4%.
Financials also advanced in response to the U.S. fiscal-cliff deal, with Nomura Holdings Inc. /zigman2/quotes/206251373/delayed JP:8604 -5.20% /zigman2/quotes/207276383/composite NMR -4.00% trading up 4.2% and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. /zigman2/quotes/207520099/delayed JP:8306 -1.77% rising 5%.
Among the few blue chips losing ground, Sharp Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203224600/delayed JP:6753 -5.66% /zigman2/quotes/207472799/delayed SHCAF +3.24% fell 2.6% after the Yomiuri Shimbun reported Tuesday that the company may issue more than $1.15 billion in new shares.
Unlike their Japanese peers, Hong Kong-listed banks moved lower, hit by the Fed news and a 0.5% drop for U.S. financials Thursday.
Top-weighted index component HSBC Holdings PLC /zigman2/quotes/202687335/delayed HK:5 -0.80% lost 1.6%, while Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/200705246/delayed HK:1288 -0.32% /zigman2/quotes/209398792/delayed ACGBF +0.93% fell 0.3% and China Merchants Bank Co. /zigman2/quotes/209899244/delayed HK:3968 +0.40% /zigman2/quotes/209895294/delayed CIHHF -5.97% declined 0.8%.
• MarketWatch Topics: Middle East
• Asia Markets | Europe Markets | Lat. Am.
• Canadian Markets | Israel Stocks | London
• U.S.: Market Snapshot | After Hours
• Latin American and Canadian indexes
• European indexes | Asian indexes
More on the Markets
• Global Economic Calendar
• Bond Report | Oil News | Earnings Watch
• Currencies | U.S. Economic Calendar
In Shanghai, however, banks were mostly higher, as the market opened for the first time after the U.S. fiscal-cliff agreement.