Asian markets finished mostly higher, as Tokyo rebounded on bargain-hunting while Hong Kong shares took cues from mainland gains.
Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 stock index reversed early losses to end 1.71% higher at 12820.47, its highest level since March 12. Traders say the market may be entering a brief rebound period as major U.S. investment banks have finished reporting quarterly earnings and expectations grow for fresh money from the domestic buyers, including pension funds, in the new fiscal year from April 1.
The improved mood invited bargain-hunting in issues with relatively good earnings fundamentals such as trading houses. Mitsubishi jumped 5%, and Sumitomo advanced 3.3%. Matsushita Electric /zigman2/quotes/201785256/delayed JP:6752 -0.27% added 4.5% and Mitsubishi Electric Industrial climbed 4.3%. However, Taisho Pharmaceutical shed 1.7% on speculation it will see a profit decline next fiscal year due to an expected drop in its prescription drug sales.
China's Shanghai Composite Index rebounded from the previous day's plunge to close 4.9% higher at 3580.14 on rumors of possible government moves to support the market.
Market heavyweight PetroChina surged 5.2%, Ping An Insurance rose 8.5% and coal miner China Shenhua Energy climbed 6.4%. Baoshan Iron & Steel gained 3.1% after falling 9% a day before on its lower-than-expected earnings for 2007. The publicly traded unit of China's biggest steelmaker by capacity said 2007 net profit fell 2.8% due to higher ore prices.
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index tracked the mainland's gains, rising 2.7% to close at 23285.95. China-related blue chips shone on the rebound in China's A-share market. China Shenhua Energy /zigman2/quotes/206065610/delayed HK:1088 -0.76% rose 9% and PetroChina /zigman2/quotes/204979431/delayed HK:857 -0.39% ended 5.2% higher. Ping An Insurance /zigman2/quotes/210315058/delayed HK:2318 +3.51% gained 8.3% while China Life Insurance /zigman2/quotes/202359856/delayed HK:2628 +0.46% rose 6.1%. Upstream oil company Cnooc /zigman2/quotes/203421416/delayed HK:883 -1.10% rose 6.8% on high oil prices. However, Hong Kong consumer goods exporter Li & Fung fell 9.9% after it posted weaker-than-expected 2007 results late Thursday.
Elsewhere, buying by local institutions on quarter-end window-dressing helped the Korea Composite Stock Price Index reverse early losses to close 1.5% higher at 1701.83.
Exporters did well as a weak won kept their competitiveness at healthy levels. Hyundai Motor ended 2.1% higher while affiliate Kia Motors closed up 1.8%. Exports account for a large part of local auto makers' total sales with almost 50% of export settlements in dollars, said analysts. The U.S. dollar ended the session at 993 won Friday, rising by 5.20 won.
Positive estimates for first-quarter earnings benefited local technology firms, helping Samsung Electronics rise 1.3% while LG Electronics climbed 6.1%.
Builders recovered from Thursday's losses, taking cues from the new South Korean administration's plan to ease regulation on building houses. Daelim Industrial jumped 9% while Hyundai Engineering & Construction rose 1.4%.
In currencies, the dollar was higher against the yen, trading around ¥99.76 late Friday afternoon.
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