By V. Phani Kumar, MarketWatch
HONG KONG (MarketWatch) — Asian markets rebounded Tuesday as a higher finish on Wall Street attracted buyers a day after most regional equities suffered a sell-off, with Japanese stocks extending gains on hopes for further monetary easing under a new central bank chief.
Mainland Chinese stocks rebounded strongly as the National People’s Congress — the country’s parliament — began its annual session, although property developers fell further under the lingering influence of fresh restrictions imposed on the sector late last week.
The rebound came as outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao kicked off the annual session of the NPC by announcing an economic growth target of 7.5% for 2013, in line with expectations.
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“China has found buyers today, and while all the talk yesterday was around property, today’s sentiment seems a little more robust,” said Chris Weston, chief market strategist at IG Markets.
The Shanghai Composite /zigman2/quotes/206600939/delayed CN:000001 -3.31% ended 2.3% higher, after slumping 3.7% on Monday for its worst loss since August 2011. The benchmark had briefly dipped into the red earlier in the session.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI -2.67% climbed 0.1%, Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK -4.59% rose 0.3% and /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK -4.59% South Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 -3.46% gained 0.2%.
The S&P/ASX 200 index /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO -3.25% rose 1.3% in Sydney, holding on to most of its gains after the Reserve Bank of Australia left its policy interest rate unchanged at 3%.
Despite the broad gains, some analysts remained cautious.
“Continued uncertainty surrounding Italian politics and central bank monetary decisions means price gains would likely be capped,” said strategists at Credit Agricole, referring to this week’s upcoming meetings at the European Central Bank and the Bank of England.
U.S. investors on Monday shrugged off the losses in Shanghai, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -4.42% to its second-highest level on record. Read: Stock gain lifts Dow average to second-highest level.
Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were up 20 points at 14,136 by mid-afternoon in Hong Kong.
The rebound on mainland bourses was led by financial, resource and industrial stocks, with Jiangxi Copper Co. /zigman2/quotes/201334192/delayed CN:600362 -3.96% /zigman2/quotes/204256025/delayed JIXAY -8.05% rising 1.8% and Bank of Communications Co. /zigman2/quotes/202128064/delayed BCMXY -9.89% /zigman2/quotes/207155262/delayed CN:601328 -1.51% adding 4%.
“Commentary from China’s National People’s Congress seems upbeat and although it is once again targeting gross domestic product [growth] of 7.5%, the market still expects this is to be a modestly conservative estimate,” said IG Markets’ Weston.
But property stocks remained a weak spot, amid fears that the latest restrictions on the sector may undo a recent recovery in home prices.
Gemdale Corp. /zigman2/quotes/208026094/delayed CN:600383 +2.34% lost 0.9% and Poly Real Estate Group Co. /zigman2/quotes/201864015/delayed CN:600048 +1.52% fell 1.1% in Shanghai, while China Vanke Co. managed to reverse early losses to finish 0.5% higher in Shenzhen. All three stocks had plunged by the day’s 10% limit on Monday.
In Hong Kong, Chinese banks and local property developers rose to help offset a 0.5% drop in shares of HSBC Holdings PLC /zigman2/quotes/202687335/delayed HK:5 -2.39% after the heavyweight lender on Monday reported 2012 results that fell short of expectations.
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Japanese shares, which had on Monday defied broad regional declines, added to their gains on the back of a continued rally in real estate and financial sectors.
The rise in Tokyo came a day after the government’s nominee for Bank of Japan Gov., Haruhiko Kuroda, made remarks favoring bolder monetary measures to meet the central bank’s recently-adopted target of achieving a 2% inflation.
Kuroda is expected to succeed incumbent Masaaki Shirakawa, who will be stepping down on March 19.
Finance Minister Taro Aso said at a press conference Tuesday that he expects Kuroda to handle monetary policy in line with the joint pact signed by the BOJ earlier this year, aimed at spurring a sluggish economy.
Heavyweight stock Fast Retailing Co. /zigman2/quotes/203924235/delayed FRCOY -3.64% /zigman2/quotes/200663563/delayed JP:9983 -4.98% fronted the advance, jumping 5.5% after reporting a 9.6% increase in sales at its Uniqlo casual clothing chain in February.
The retail sector climbed in Sydney after data showing industry sales rose 0.9% on an adjusted basis in January, beating economist expectations for a 0.4% gain.
Myer Holdings Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/200987583/delayed AU:MYR -4.23% gained 2.5%, while David Jones Ltd. advanced 3.5%.