By Chris Oliver, MarketWatch
HONG KONG (MarketWatch) -- Asian stocks traded mixed Wednesday, with Japan's Nikkei 225 ending at its highest level in two weeks as automotive shares such as Toyota Motor Corp. gained, while Singapore's Straits Times Index also rose, lifted by gains in financial stocks such as DBS Holdings Group.
Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei 225 /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK +2.38% added 100.95 points, rising 0.7% to 15,653.54, the highest since Dec. 12. The broader Topix rose 12.44 points, or 0.8%, to 1508.47.
Trading conditions were generally quiet, with turnover reportedly the lowest since last December as many investors stayed away for year end-holidays.
Singapore's Straits Times Index closed 1.1% higher at 3,473.21, while the Shanghai Composite Index reversed earlier losses to close 0.6% higher at 5,233.35. South Korea's key Kospi index fell 0.7% to 1,906.72, with Taiwan's Weighted Price Index off 0.1% to 8,156.39.
In other regional action, Indonesia's Jakarta Composite Index was up 2.1% to 2,714.54 and India's Sensex index added 1.7% to 20,192.52.
Markets in Hong Kong, New Zealand and Australia were shuttered for holidays Wednesday and will reopen Thursday. Financial markets in the U.S. closed Tuesday for Christmas holidays.
In currencies, the U.S. dollar was trading at 114.27 yen, compared to 114.28 late Tuesday in Tokyo.
Shares of Toyota /zigman2/quotes/200537742/composite TM -0.07% /zigman2/quotes/203803129/delayed JP:7203 +1.90% climbed 1.3% after the automaker said Tuesday it plans to sell 9.85 million vehicles globally during fiscal 2008, a target 5.2% higher than the 9.36 million it expects to sell this year.
Another Tokyo standout was Sanyo Electric Co. , shares of which slumped 11%.
Investor concerns surfaced that the company may be delisted from Tokyo's main board after it restated financial statements for the past six years on Tuesday. The Tokyo Stock Exchange has reportedly put Sanyo on its watch list for possible removal from active trade.
The rail operator reportedly plans to finance, at a cost of 5.1 trillion yen ($45 billion), a magnetic levitation train to run between Tokyo and Nagoya. The service would reduce the travel time between the two metropolitan regions to 40 to 50 minutes.
Shares of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. /zigman2/quotes/200706257/composite MC +1.00% /zigman2/quotes/201785256/delayed JP:6752 +2.07% , parent of the Panasonic brand of consumer electronics, added 0.4% after saying Tuesday it will adjust its business strategy regarding production of flat-screen televisions. The move will see the firm take control of a joint venture that produces liquid crystal display panels, and it may invest in a new factory.
In the chip sector, shares of Elpida Memory Inc. eased 0.8%. Nikko Citigroup reportedly cut its rating to hold from buy and lowered its target price to 4,000 yen, citing mounting losses amid steep declines in D-RAM memory chips.
Shares of Kansai Electric Power Co. and Sumitomo Corp. /zigman2/quotes/209745829/delayed JP:8053 +0.70% traded mixed following reports that the firms will join forces with Kazakhstan's state-owned Kazatomprom to process uranium ore into nuclear fuel for power generation. The first deliveries of nuclear fuel from are expected in 2010, according to reports that cited a statement by Kansai Electric.
Shares of Sumitomo climbed 1.2%, while Kansai Electric Power fell 1.5%.
In Singapore, shares of banking and brokerage firm DBS climbed 2.1%.
Analysts said sentiment in China's markets improved after a strong debut in Shenzhen by Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Co., reportedly China's largest wind-turbine producer by market share. The shares rocketed 264% to close at 131 yuan (14 cents).
Chinese real-estate stocks remained under pressure amid tighter credit conditions after recent hikes in lending rates. Shares of homebuilder China Vanke fell 0.3%.