By Sarah Turner, MarketWatch
HONG KONG (MarketWatch) — Most Asian markets ended higher Wednesday, with strong earnings from some major regional corporations pulling in buyers while investors awaited U.S. markets to reopen for the first time after super storm Sandy.
Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK -0.79% led the region’s major markets, rebounding from the previous day’s loss to finish 1% higher, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI -0.73% also climbed 1%.
South Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 -1.28% rose 0.7%, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO -2.31% gained 0.7% and China’s Shanghai Composite Index /zigman2/quotes/206600939/delayed CN:000001 -0.33% advanced 0.3%, while Taiwan’s Taiex declined 0.2%.
U.S. markets were set to reopen for the first time this week after storm system Sandy brought widespread flooding and power outages to New York City. Read: Officials struggle to assess Sandy’s damage.
“U.S. residents and businesses face billions of dollars of losses in the wake of Hurricane Sandy,” said Matthew Sherwood, head of investment market research at Perpetual Investments.
He added, however, that “although there has been large-scale damage, it does appear to be less than initially feared.”
The storm is unlikely to have a sustained impact on international markets, given that trading outside the U.S. was little affected during the event, said strategists at Wells Fargo Advisers.
“Most of these markets have traded in narrow ranges since mid-September. We believe the consolidation is in large part tracking uncertainties around policy decisions in Europe and lingering concern about the global economic slowdown,” they said.
Asia markets were on track for a mixed monthly performance in October, with the Kospi set to be the worst performer, showing a 4.1% month-to-date loss. October’s best performer so far was the Hang Seng Index, having gained 3.3% so far in a month that saw the market rise for 10 straight sessions.
Economic impact of Sandy
Most businesses in New York and throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast U.S. remain closed Tuesday due to super storm Sandy.
Earnings optimism boosted the Japanese market, with construction- and mining-equipment firm Komatsu Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/204002437/delayed JP:6301 -0.20% /zigman2/quotes/206435044/delayed KMTUF -1.64% up 3.2% as it kept its earnings outlook unchanged despite posting a half-year profit drop of more than 30% as analysts had expected.
Shipping firm Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/201857679/delayed JP:9107 -0.95% /zigman2/quotes/209474190/delayed KAIKY +22.53% sharply narrowed its first-half net loss, and its shares climbed 4.1%. Likewise, Mitsubishi Electric Corp /zigman2/quotes/206004588/delayed MIELY -1.98% /zigman2/quotes/207150000/delayed JP:6503 -1.56% jumped 3.7% after releasing first-half earnings.
Hitachi Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/203839937/delayed JP:6501 -0.42% /zigman2/quotes/203416411/delayed HTHIF +2.28% rallied 3.2% after announcing its purchase of the U.K.’s Horizon nuclear-power venture, while Toshiba Corp. /zigman2/quotes/205628942/delayed JP:6502 -0.64% /zigman2/quotes/204149068/delayed TOSYY -1.14% , which lost out on the acquisition, nonetheless, jumped 4.6%.
Japanese stocks had fallen heavily late Tuesday after the Bank of Japan announced near the close of trading that it would expand its asset-buying program by 11 trillion yen ($138 billion) to a total of ¥91 trillion, a figure that was roughly in line with economist expectations but apparently a disappointment to markets.
But the Bank of Japan also introduced a new lending facility to stimulate bank loans and in an unprecedented move, issued an joint statement with the Finance Ministry, highlighting its commitment to fighting deflation.
With the central bank saying it expects inflation to reach 0.8% in fiscal 2014, which would be below its 1% target, Capital Economics economist David Rea said he expects more easing moves “in the quarters ahead.”
Meanwhile, speculation that the U.S. Federal Reserve would maintain monetary stimulus to help the economy recover from the storm saw the U.S. dollar weaken Tuesday, helping to provide commodities with some upside. Read: Dollar down; Sandy to keep Fed busier than BOJ.
Against that backdrop, resource stocks rose in Asia on Wednesday, with Japanese steel maker JFE Holdings Inc. /zigman2/quotes/204336633/delayed JP:5411 +1.14% /zigman2/quotes/203557603/delayed JFEEF -7.70% up 4.9% and Australian gold-mining giant Newcrest Mining Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/203840223/delayed AU:NCM -2.92% /zigman2/quotes/206026738/delayed NCMGF -0.89% gaining 1%.
Of Hong Kong-listed resource sector firms, China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., also known as Sinopec /zigman2/quotes/202085942/delayed HK:386 -0.98% /zigman2/quotes/202783176/composite SNP -1.38% , rose 1.4%, while China Coal Energy Co. /zigman2/quotes/201486584/delayed HK:1898 +0.77% /zigman2/quotes/205321671/delayed CCOZY -1.24% climbed 2.5%.
Some Chinese resource firms saw earnings-related losses, however, with PetroChina Ltd /zigman2/quotes/204979431/delayed HK:857 -0.94% /zigman2/quotes/205108732/composite PTR -2.35% down 2% after reporting a 33% drop in quarterly profit, while Aluminium Corp. of China Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/202960704/delayed HK:2600 -1.39% /zigman2/quotes/208051344/composite ACH -2.14% underperformed the broader market, ending 0.3% higher after swinging to a third-quarter loss.
Shanghai trading saw Aluminium Corp. of China /zigman2/quotes/210453246/delayed CN:601600 +2.57% rose 0.2%, also less than gains for the the broader market, while PetroChina /zigman2/quotes/206980083/delayed CN:601857 +0.58% lost 0.7%.
Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/201401473/delayed HK:1398 -0.93% /zigman2/quotes/202401350/delayed IDCBY -1.17% gained 2% in Hong Kong after it reported a 15% increase in third-quarter net profit to 62.44 billion yuan ($10 billion), a figure that exceeded analysts’ expectations.
Property-firms took back some recent losses in Hong Kong, with Henderson Land Development Co. /zigman2/quotes/208724890/delayed HK:12 +0.42% /zigman2/quotes/206540703/delayed HLDVF -7.90% up 1.2% and New World Development Co. /zigman2/quotes/202357413/delayed HK:17 0.00% /zigman2/quotes/202626569/delayed NDVLF -0.72% improving by 2%.