By V. Phani Kumar, MarketWatch , Colin Ng and John Phillips
HONG KONG (MarketWatch) — Most Asian stocks advanced Wednesday on lower crude-oil prices and overnight Wall Street gains, with shares in Tokyo looking past a major earthquake off Japan’s northern coast and cheering upbeat machinery-orders data.
Airline stocks advanced on a pullback in crude-oil prices, with Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. soaring on the Hong Kong carrier’s 2010 results. Australian shares ended lower as weak commodity prices weighed down miners.
Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK -0.39% finished 0.6% higher, South Korea’s Kospi added 0.3%, China’s Shanghai Composite /zigman2/quotes/210598127/delayed CN:SHCOMP +0.31% overcame early losses to end up 0.1% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI -1.09% rose 0.4%. Australia’s S&P/ASX /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO -0.33% dropped 0.8%.
IPOs return to Hong Kong
After a slow start to the year, Hong Kong's IPO market is roaring back, with a slew of companies seeking to raise as much as $8 billion in the city in coming months.
Tokyo stocks rose as investors shrugged off a 7.3-magnitude earthquake in Japan, as initial reports suggested that there was little damage to the rural, quake-prepared region.
Better-than-expected data also helped, with automation company Fanuc /zigman2/quotes/209410825/delayed FANUY -2.35% /zigman2/quotes/202054799/delayed JP:6954 -1.42% rising 0.6% as January core machinery orders rose 4.2% month-on-month, outpacing December’s 1.7% rise.
“Today’s report, along with other recent indicators, suggests business spending should continue increasing moderately in the January to March quarter, though it’s still too early to say if it will accelerate,” said Norio Miyagawa, a senior economist at Mizuho Research and Consulting.
Shares of Vantec Corp. soared 25.8% on a Nikkei report that Hitachi Transport plans to buy a majority stake in the company.
Telecommunications major KDDI Corp. /zigman2/quotes/204923990/delayed JP:9433 +0.47% /zigman2/quotes/205540401/delayed KDDIY +0.49% added 3% after announcing a capital and business tie-up with Space Shower Networks to expand its media-content business.
Toyota Motor Corp. /zigman2/quotes/200537742/composite TM -0.05% /zigman2/quotes/203803129/delayed JP:7203 +1.10% ended 0.4% higher, with investors focused on the company’s “global vision,” a longer-term business strategy that the auto maker planned to unveil Wednesday. According to a Nikkei report, Toyota aims to lift its group operating profit to more than 1 trillion yen ($12.2 billion) in two to three years by strengthening its ability to cope with a stronger yen and through additional cost-cutting efforts.
A number of airlines gained as April Nymex light sweet crude-oil futures fell 81 cents at $104.21 a barrel on Globex, extending Tuesday’s losses following reports that allies of Col. Moammar Gadhafi were debating the Libyan leader’s exit. The prospect of Western military intervention in the North African country and the possibility that the U.S. could tap strategic supplies also pressured crude oil.
Korean Air Lines rose 1% and Asiana Airlines Inc. rose 1.5% in Seoul, All Nippon Airways Co. /zigman2/quotes/202790240/delayed JP:9202 -0.79% /zigman2/quotes/200046541/delayed ALNPY -2.56% rose 0.7% in Tokyo, EVA Airways jumped 5.9% in Taipei and Qantas Airways /zigman2/quotes/200387630/delayed QUBSF -4.42% /zigman2/quotes/205534063/delayed AU:QAN -2.40% added 0.4% in Sydney.
Shares of Cathay Pacific /zigman2/quotes/208114856/delayed CPCAY +0.56% /zigman2/quotes/203532437/delayed HK:293 -0.19% soared 4.5% after the Hong Kong carrier said its 2010 profit nearly tripled and boosted its dividend payout.
Chinese banks advanced on optimism over their upcoming 2010 earnings reports, with the stocks also aided by media reports that the People’s Bank of China had reversed a punitive increase in reserve requirements it had imposed on some lenders. Shares of Industrial & Commercial Bank of China /zigman2/quotes/202401350/delayed IDCBY +0.69% /zigman2/quotes/201401473/delayed HK:1398 -0.54% /zigman2/quotes/202525815/delayed CN:601398 -0.36% added 1.5% and Bank of China /zigman2/quotes/201568493/delayed BACHY +0.10% /zigman2/quotes/204682472/delayed HK:3988 -0.93% /zigman2/quotes/209359942/delayed CN:601988 -0.28% rose 1% in Hong Kong; in Shanghai, the stocks outperformed the broad market, rising 0.2% and 2.1%, respectively.
Gains in Shanghai were capped by coal miners and gold firms, which fell in line with a retreat in commodity prices Tuesday. China Coal Energy /zigman2/quotes/205321671/delayed CCOZY -1.24% /zigman2/quotes/200280825/delayed CN:601898 0.00% fell 0.9%, while Shandong Gold-Mining /zigman2/quotes/200150484/delayed CN:600547 +5.44% dropped 1.4%.
In Seoul, foreign investors’ sales capped the Kospi’s rise, with Hynix Semiconductor Inc. losing 0.9% and Korea Kumho PetroChemical Co. dropping 3.6%.