HONG KONG (MarketWatch) — Asia stocks edged higher in thin holiday-week volume Monday, with gold miners and resource sector stocks among the outperformers as most major markets prepared to go on break.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI +0.46% ended 0.2% higher, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO -0.54% closed with a 0.3% gain, as both markets traded in a shortened session ahead of a two-day break.
The Shanghai Composite Index /zigman2/quotes/206600939/delayed CN:000001 +0.24% improved by 0.3%, while South Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 +0.16% edged up 0.1% in choppy trade. Taiwan’s Taiex bucked the trend, however, to slip 0.1%.
The gains in Asia came despite losses on Friday for U.S. and European bourses, with top Republican fiscal-cliff negotiator House Speaker John Boehner saying he was ready to return to talks with the White House. Read: Boehner holds out hope for fiscal-cliff deal.
Southeast Asia wary of refugees from Myanmar
Malaysia accepts 40 shipwreck survivors believed to be refugees from Myanmar, which has recently seen a growing number of Muslim Rohingyas fleeing the country. But generally, countries like Singapore and Malaysia are reluctant to accept such refugees.
“Despite some negative leads, Asian markets have managed to edge higher. ... This is a bit of an improvement on the losses seen in the risk space on Friday, when fiscal cliff negotiations stalled,” said Stan Shamu, a market strategist at IG Markets.
Japanese bourses, closed for the Emperor’s Birthday on Monday, were due to reopen Tuesday, and the Shanghai market will be open for trading for the rest of the week. But most other major markets in Asia were scheduled to close for Christmas.
“Markets are likely to maintain tight ranges ahead of the Christmas break and, of course, until we get further leads on the fiscal cliff negotiations at the end of the week,” Shamu added.
The fiscal-cliff worries late last week had sent New York-traded benchmark gold futures almost 1% higher on Friday, aiding the region’s gold-mining shares.
In Sydney, top gold producer Newcrest Mining Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/203840223/delayed AU:NCM -1.14% /zigman2/quotes/206026738/composite NCMGF +0.51% finished 1% higher and Kingsgate Consolidated Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/209270359/delayed AU:KCN -3.12% /zigman2/quotes/205153395/composite KSKGF -15.49% climbed 1.2%.
Banks aided the rebound for Chinese markets after Friday’s losses amidst heightened worries over the U.S. fisccal cliff.
In Hong Kong, HSBC Holdings PLC /zigman2/quotes/202687335/delayed HK:5 +0.19% /zigman2/quotes/203901799/delayed UK:HSBA +0.29% rose 0.7%, Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/200705246/delayed HK:1288 0.00% /zigman2/quotes/209398792/composite ACGBF -6.39% added 0.8% and China Construction Bank Corp. /zigman2/quotes/208974133/delayed HK:939 +0.61% /zigman2/quotes/209484779/composite CICHF +1.88% climbed 1.1%; in Shanghai, Agricultural Bank /zigman2/quotes/204629388/delayed CN:601288 -0.70% added 0.7%, CCB /zigman2/quotes/208058581/delayed CN:601939 +0.36% rose 0.2%, and China Merchants Bank Co. /zigman2/quotes/210188047/delayed CN:600036 +0.03% jumped 3%.
In Seoul, gains were led by a 2.2% rise in shares of heavyweight Samsung Electronics Co. /zigman2/quotes/209800866/delayed KR:005930 +0.50% /zigman2/quotes/202367843/composite SSNLF +30.66% on a positive outlook for 2013. The advance also followed a Korea Times report that the company aims to sell about 20% more mobile phones in 2013 than it did this year. Read: Samsung aims to sell 510 million handsets in 2013.
Investors appeared to shrug off news Friday that the European Union had filed a complaint against Samsung Electronics over its recent legal actions against Apple Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL +2.14% .
In Sydney, shares of Billabong International Ltd. improved 0.6% after swinging in both directions, as the surfwear company opened its books to a consortium of bidders to conduct due diligence. Read: Billabong opens its books to bidding consortium.