HONG KONG (MarketWatch) — Japanese stocks jumped Thursday ahead of a closely-watched press briefing by the new central bank governor, while mainland Chinese shares advanced after a preliminary reading on manufacturing activity showed an improvement.
The Nikkei Stock Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK +0.34% climbed 1.3% in Tokyo, leading regional markets by a wide margin as investors returned from Wednesday’s holiday.
The advance came against the backdrop of anticipation as investors looked ahead to the first press conference of new Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda. A Nikkei newspaper report said the new governor was expected to announce “bold monetary easing, both in terms of quantity and quality” in order to quickly reach the bank’s 2% inflation target.
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Exporters posted solid gains amid hopes that the yen might weaken further as the central bank targeted policies to pull the country from the grip of falling prices.
Kyocera Corp. /zigman2/quotes/204880749/delayed JP:6971 +0.89% rose 3.1%, Fanuc Corp. /zigman2/quotes/202054799/delayed JP:6954 +0.56% /zigman2/quotes/206262686/delayed FANUF -0.77% rallied 5.1%, and Hitachi Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/203839937/delayed JP:6501 +0.75% /zigman2/quotes/203416411/delayed HTHIF +2.28% advanced 2.5%.
Financials also traded broadly higher ahead of the Kuroda news briefing, with Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. /zigman2/quotes/207520099/delayed JP:8306 +0.39% advancing 1.6% and Nomura Holdings Inc. /zigman2/quotes/206251373/delayed JP:8604 +1.20% /zigman2/quotes/207276383/composite NMR 0.00% rising 2.3%.
Elsewhere in the region, China’s Shanghai Composite Index /zigman2/quotes/206600939/delayed CN:000001 +2.30% rose 0.3% and Taiwan’s Taiex inched up 0.2%.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI -0.17% slipped 0.1% at the end of a choppy day’s trading that saw the benchmark change direction a few times. South Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 -0.67% fell 0.4% and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO +0.25% eased 0.2%.
The region’s mixed performance came despite an overnight advance on Wall Street. More recently, Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA +0.40% futures were up 22 points, or 0.2%, pointing to a likely higher start for U.S. equities.
Meanwhile, a preliminary survey of Chinese manufacturing by HSBC showed the Purchasing Managers’ Index rose to 51.7 in March from February’s final reading of 50.4.
“The rebound in the PMI suggests that at least some of the slowing in the pace of growth in February had been attributable to a stronger-than-usual seasonal impact from the [Lunar] New Year holidays, and provides encouraging indications that the economy is not facing a renewed weakening,” said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, which helps HSBC compile the survey results.
/zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HSI 27,609.16, -46.65, -0.17%
Automobile and steel firms were among the gainers in Shanghai, with SAIC Motor Corp. /zigman2/quotes/201442870/delayed CN:600104 +1.10% climbing 0.7% and Wuhan Iron & Steel Co. rising 1.1%.
In Hong Kong, shares of Tencent Holdings Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/204605823/delayed HK:700 -0.34% /zigman2/quotes/202617460/delayed TCTZF +1.04% fell 4%, even after it reported a 37% increase in fourth-quarter profit, as the Internet services company said it will step up investment in a mobile chatting platform.
Australian shares fell as the market digested the surprise news that Prime Minister Julia Gillard had agreed to call a vote later in the day to determine the leadership of the ruling Labor Party and the nation. Gillard was reelected leader of the ruling party, unopposed, after the market closed.
Shares of Commonwealth Bank of Australia /zigman2/quotes/200638713/delayed AU:CBA +0.02% /zigman2/quotes/207018701/delayed CBAUF -1.18% dropped 0.7% and National Australia Bank Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/210431826/delayed AU:NAB +0.33% /zigman2/quotes/208329321/delayed NABZY -0.05% fell 0.5%, while mining giant BHP Billiton Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/208108397/composite BHP -0.25% /zigman2/quotes/201448516/delayed AU:BHP +0.05% declined 0.4%.
In South Korea, several major financials traded lower a day after a major cyber-attack hit some of the nation’s top banks and media outlets. Shinhan Financial Group Co. /zigman2/quotes/208869909/composite SHG -0.10% /zigman2/quotes/202889287/delayed KR:055550 -0.96% dropped 1.6%, while Hana Financial Group Inc. /zigman2/quotes/208370876/delayed KR:086790 -0.45% declined 2.5%.