By V. Phani Kumar, MarketWatch
HONG KONG (MarketWatch) — Australian stocks declined, and Hong Kong equities snapped a three-day winning run on Tuesday, weighed by overnight losses on Wall Street and uncertainty over U.S. monetary policy.
Japanese and mainland Chinese shares overcame choppy trade to finish higher, meanwhile, with a weakened yen helping the Nikkei Stock Average set a fresh multiyear high.
The S&P/ASX 200 /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO -2.41% dropped 0.6% in Sydney, the Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI -2.19% gave up 0.5% in Hong Kong and the Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 -3.94% was off 0.1% in Seoul.
Japan’s Nikkei /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK -4.50% changed direction a few times before rising 0.1% to 15,381.02, its highest finish since December 2007. The benchmark is now up 11% so far in May, and almost 48% higher from the level at last year’s end.
The Shanghai Composite /zigman2/quotes/206600939/delayed CN:000001 +0.70% inched up 0.2%.
“While there is a strong argument among investors that stocks are due for a pullback, any signs of weaknesses in equities are very quickly used as a buying opportunity,” said Rivkin Securities global analyst Tim Radford.
“So until we see any indication of the Federal Reserve tapering stimulus, modest pullbacks of 1%-3% will likely continue to be used as buying opportunities by market participants riding high on a stimulus-driven market,” he said.
Trading in most markets was choppy after U.S. stocks reversed course from a record-setting run to end lower Monday, as investors remained focused on how long the Federal Reserve will maintain its asset buying — a key source of stimulus for global equities over the past several months.
Caution prevailed ahead of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s testimony before lawmakers Wednesday, even as Chicago Federal Reserve Bank President Charles Evans on Monday voiced support for the central bank’s accommodative policies, saying the economy still faced headwinds.
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Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/201401473/delayed HK:1398 -2.45% /zigman2/quotes/202401350/delayed IDCBY -3.98% fell 2.1% to weigh on the Hong Kong market, after Goldman Sachs /zigman2/quotes/209237603/lastsale GS -6.02% sold its remaining stake in the giant Chinese bank for about $1.12 billion.
Among other notable Hong Kong losers, China Construction Bank Corp. /zigman2/quotes/208974133/delayed HK:939 -2.05% /zigman2/quotes/207732534/delayed CICHY -3.83% fell 1.4%, and Internet services major Tencent Holdings Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/204605823/delayed HK:700 -1.53% /zigman2/quotes/207908563/delayed TCEHY -4.14% fell 1.8%.
Shares of banks and other high divided-yielding companies were under pressure in Sydney, with Australia & New Zealand Banking Group /zigman2/quotes/205482049/delayed AU:ANZ -5.63% /zigman2/quotes/203732563/delayed ANZBY -3.64% off 2%, Westpac Banking Corp. /zigman2/quotes/206661702/lastsale WBK -4.49% /zigman2/quotes/203084975/delayed AU:WBC -4.37% retreating 1%, and gaming firm Tatts Group Ltd. losing 1.2%.
In Tokyo, Softbank Corp. /zigman2/quotes/207303954/delayed JP:9984 -2.98% /zigman2/quotes/202815238/delayed SFTBF -3.25% fell 3.8% after the Nikkei newspaper reported the wireless carrier was planning to set a record with a 400 billion yen ($3.91 billion) retail bond issuance.
However, Toshiba Corp. /zigman2/quotes/205628942/delayed JP:6502 -1.89% /zigman2/quotes/204149068/delayed TOSYY -1.15% gained 0.9% on another Nikkei report that the conglomerate plans to sell a semiconductor assembly plant in China to a Taiwanese firm.
Several exporters came off the day’s lows as the yen weakened after Japan’s Economy Minister Akira Amari said he hopes the yen’s foreign-exchange rates will settle at a level that corresponds with the relative strength of the domestic economy.
Sony Corp. /zigman2/quotes/201361720/delayed JP:6758 -3.01% /zigman2/quotes/208567357/lastsale SNE -3.94% inched up 0.1%, and Renesas Electronics Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203872935/delayed JP:6723 -5.14% /zigman2/quotes/201351352/delayed RNECY -11.96% added 1.6%, with each rebounding from initial losses.
Aiding broader market gains, shares of Subaru-brand vehicle maker Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/203522406/delayed JP:7270 -2.89% /zigman2/quotes/200526066/delayed FUJHY -3.30% rose 3.8% and Fujitsu Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/208459594/delayed JP:6702 -3.03% /zigman2/quotes/208783738/delayed FJTSY -2.47% climbed 7.9%.