By Michael Kitchen, MarketWatch
LOS ANGELES (MarketWatch) — Most Asian stock markets saw modest gains Thursday, with energy stocks offering a bright spot after an increase for oil futures, though Japanese shares lagged.
South Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 -3.30% improved by 0.5%, leading gains among the major indexes, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI -2.42% rose 0.3%, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO -3.25% added 0.2%, and the Shanghai Composite /zigman2/quotes/210598127/delayed CN:SHCOMP -3.71% swung to a 0.1% gain after trading solidly lower earlier in the day.
On the downside, Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK -3.67% lost 0.2%, though off its earlier lows.
After New York-traded oil futures scored their first win in three sessions on Wednesday, energy shares saw the broadest buying in Asia.
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In Tokyo, Inpex Corp. /zigman2/quotes/206689846/delayed JP:1605 -2.67% /zigman2/quotes/207958170/delayed IPXHY -3.36% rose 2.3%, while Japan Petroleum Exploration Co. /zigman2/quotes/201212147/delayed JP:1662 -5.83% /zigman2/quotes/202925532/delayed JPTXF -1.12% added 0.9%, while in Sydney, Oil Search Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/204702973/delayed AU:OSH -3.35% /zigman2/quotes/209002256/delayed OISHF -18.54% tacked on 0.7% each.
Likewise, PetroChina Co. /zigman2/quotes/204979431/delayed HK:857 -4.43% /zigman2/quotes/206980083/delayed CN:601857 -1.93% /zigman2/quotes/205108732/composite PTR -1.66% rose 1.5% in Hong Kong — though it slipped 0.2% in Shanghai — after the stock was hit in recent sessions by news of an investigation into company executives.
Hong Kong-listed clothing and apparel exporters also saw some strength after overnight advances for the Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -1.39% and S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -0.82% , as well as an improvement for European stocks.
Among them, Samsonite International SA /zigman2/quotes/203535856/delayed HK:1910 -4.53% /zigman2/quotes/206951683/delayed SMSOF -9.19% traded 1.9% higher, Giordano International Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/204300280/delayed HK:709 -3.68% /zigman2/quotes/204681756/delayed GRDZF -27.59% rose 1.3%, and Esprit Holdings Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/205943307/delayed HK:330 -7.14% /zigman2/quotes/209270177/delayed ESHDF -2.78% added 1.7% after posting a fiscal-year loss earlier in the week but also tipping a swing to profit next year.
BYD Co. /zigman2/quotes/206867707/delayed HK:1211 -6.84% /zigman2/quotes/200126312/delayed BYDDF -3.32% added 3.6%, with Dow Jones Newswires citing a report that the firm had the capability to produce a high-performance electric sports car, while on the downside, shares of FIH Moblie Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/205017351/delayed HK:2038 -2.48% — /zigman2/quotes/207122890/delayed FXCNF -10.64% formerly known as Foxconn — lost 2%, tracking losses for key client Apple Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL -0.06% in the U.S.
Over in Shanghai, real estate traded weaker, with Poly Real Estate Group Co. /zigman2/quotes/201864015/delayed CN:600048 +2.27% down 1.5%, and Gemdale Corp. /zigman2/quotes/208026094/delayed CN:600383 +1.56% off by 2.1%.
In Japan, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. shares /zigman2/quotes/202404490/delayed JP:7211 -4.52% /zigman2/quotes/200876874/delayed MMTOF -2.94% were slapped down 7% after the Nikkei reported it was considering a public share offering, while Sharp Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203224600/delayed JP:6753 -5.05% /zigman2/quotes/207472799/delayed SHCAF -17.95% fell 6% on a Yomiuri Shimbun report that it too was seeking new share offering, said to total up to $2 billion.
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Japan retailers traded mostly lower as a separate Yomiuri Shimbun report said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had decided to go ahead with a planned sales-tax hike, though a senior official later said no final decision had been made.
Among the major retail names, Takashimaya Co. /zigman2/quotes/207394975/delayed JP:8233 -0.98% /zigman2/quotes/203458393/delayed TKSHF -3.41% fell 1.3%, J. Front Retailing Co. /zigman2/quotes/209287176/delayed JP:3086 -2.88% lost 1%, and Aeon Co. /zigman2/quotes/208701491/delayed JP:8267 -2.94% /zigman2/quotes/209270687/delayed AONNF +16.70% dropped 0.6%, though Fast Retailing Co. /zigman2/quotes/200663563/delayed JP:9983 -2.84% /zigman2/quotes/208569095/delayed FRCOF +0.60% managed to rise 1.7%.
Thursday’s weakness followed some solid gains for Tokyo equities earlier in the week. Kim Eng Securities analyst Andrew Sullivan wrote that data on foreign transactions for the previous week showed some offshore support for shares.
“Key is big selling by foreigners of Japanese bonds and a similarly big rotation into Japanese stocks. [This is] likely to continue following the winning of the Olympic bid and the expectation of sales tax next year, accompanied with a large stimulus plan,” he wrote Thursday.
Over in Australia, the market held ground after hitting a multiyear high in the previous session, even after weak employment data released in the morning.
Among the major movers, News Corp. /zigman2/quotes/209121543/delayed AU:NWS -1.36% /zigman2/quotes/204787942/composite NWS +1.30% jumped 3.9% after Dow Jones Newswires reported Southeastern Asset Management Inc. had taken an 11.9% voting stake in the company, making it the largest shareholder behind Chairman Rupert Murdoch and his family trust.
News Corp. owns both Dow Jones Newswires and MarketWatch, the publisher of this report.
In Korea, meanwhile, Samsung Electronics Co. /zigman2/quotes/209800866/delayed KR:005930 -3.04% /zigman2/quotes/202367843/delayed SSNLF 0.00% added 1.1% after archrival Apple’s weakness in U.S. trading Wednesday.