By V. Phani Kumar, MarketWatch
HONG KONG (MarketWatch) — Japanese stocks climbed Wednesday on a weakened yen and a positive lead from Wall Street, while Australian shares were weighed as heavyweight Commonwealth Bank of Australia fell after posting results.
The Nikkei Stock Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK -0.23% ended 1.3% higher in Tokyo, helped by strong buying activity in late afternoon trade after the benchmark dipped into losses earlier in the day.
South Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 -0.57% gained 0.6% and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO -0.74% ended fractionally lower. China’s Shanghai Composite /zigman2/quotes/210598127/delayed CN:SHCOMP -0.04% fell 0.3%.
Trading in Hong Kong was canceled because of a storm.
Tokyo Stock Exchange Enlarge Image
Steel and automobile shares advanced in Tokyo as the U.S. dollar /zigman2/quotes/210561789/realtime/sampled USDJPY +0.0231% rose above the ¥98-level.
“After a long period of underperformance, [the dollar’s rate against the yen] seems to be back in its stride and rallied through ¥98,” said IG Markets strategist Stan Shamu.
“Perhaps reports that Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe is considering lowering corporate-tax rates to counter the sales-tax hike will continue to gain momentum and underpin the Nikkei [Stock Average’s] rally,” Shamu said.
JFE Holdings Inc. /zigman2/quotes/204336633/delayed JP:5411 +2.13% /zigman2/quotes/203557603/delayed JFEEF +5.81% rose 3%, and Kobe Steel Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/207391157/delayed JP:5406 +1.58% added 3.7%, while Mazda Motor Corp. /zigman2/quotes/204777714/delayed JP:7261 +3.97% /zigman2/quotes/206326885/delayed MZDAY +5.20% advanced 2.1%.
The stock performance in Asia followed a higher finish on Wall Street Tuesday, where U.S. markets got support from billionaire investor Carl Icahn’s disclosure that he held a sizeable stake in Apple Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL +1.07% , as well as data showing U.S. retail sales grew for a third straight month in July.
In Sydney, shares of Commonwealth Bank /zigman2/quotes/200638713/delayed AU:CBA +0.08% /zigman2/quotes/207018701/delayed CBAUF -0.71% fell 1.2%, even as the lender reported a record profit for the year ended June 30 and increased its dividend payout.
“A solid result by Commonwealth Bank and a firm lead from U.S. markets will set the early tone in this morning’s market. However, investors will be keen to assess whether CBA’s result and dividend payment will be good enough to prevent some short-term profit-taking,” said CMC Markets chief market analyst Ric Spooner.
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Other banks gained, however, after the strong results. National Australia Bank Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/210431826/delayed AU:NAB +0.30% /zigman2/quotes/208329321/delayed NABZY +1.26% rose 0.8%, while Westpac Banking Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203084975/delayed AU:WBC +0.12% /zigman2/quotes/206661702/composite WBK +1.25% advanced 1.1%.
Financials and construction-related stocks were among decliners in Shanghai, giving back some recent gains. Anhui Conch Cement Co. /zigman2/quotes/204422624/delayed CN:600585 -3.89% fell 1.7%, developer Gemdale Corp. /zigman2/quotes/208026094/delayed CN:600383 -2.45% lost 0.7% and Citic Securities Co. /zigman2/quotes/210326178/delayed CN:600030 +0.97% /zigman2/quotes/207216844/delayed CIIHF +0.63% lost 0.9%.
But gains in automobile shares helped support the market. SAIC Motor Corp. /zigman2/quotes/201442870/delayed CN:600104 +0.58% jumped 2.9%, and Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Co. /zigman2/quotes/202792755/delayed CN:600418 +9.99% climbed 1.8% in Shanghai afternoon trading.
The rise in SAIC shares came after news that Huayu Automotive Systems Co., of which the automobile major owns 60%, had agreed to buy Visteon Corp.’s /zigman2/quotes/202094672/composite VC +0.0082% 50% stake in their joint venture for $1.25 billion in cash.