Asian markets ended mixed, with strong exporters and financials boosting Tokyo shares while oil-price worries weighed on mainland China stocks.
Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei 225 Stock Average Index gained 0.22% to 13894.37 on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, a two-month high.
Optimism about the U.S. financial sector's health has improved market sentiment, but some investors grew cautious "before the earnings season gets into full swing," said Shinko Securities' strategist Tsuyoshi Segawa. Many Japanese companies are releasing their January-March quarterly earnings reports this week.
Financial stocks ended higher, tracking gains in their U.S. counterparts Friday. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group climbed 10%, Mizuho Financial Group /zigman2/quotes/204507985/delayed JP:8411 +1.23% closed up 9.5% and Shinsei Bank /zigman2/quotes/210166295/delayed JP:8303 +3.32% jumped 13.5%.
The dollar's stability against the yen also buoyed exporter shares. Honda Motor rose 3.0%, Nissan Motor /zigman2/quotes/208298710/delayed JP:7201 +3.14% added 2.8% and Mazda Motor /zigman2/quotes/204777714/delayed JP:7261 +2.15% shot up 7.9%. The dollar bought ¥104.58 midafternoon in Tokyo, up from ¥104.26 late Friday in New York. The euro edged up to US$1.5656 from US$1.5635.
In mainland Chinese trading, concerns about rising oil prices and weak earnings from Sinopec dragged the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index, which tracks both Class A and Class B shares, down 2.3% to close at 3474.72.
China Petroleum & Chemical, or Sinopec, fell 4.4% after it said Sunday its first-quarter net profit fell 69% from a year earlier, as surging oil costs outweighed a government subsidy. New York crude oil futures hit a record high of $119.93 a barrel Monday.
Concerns that rising oil prices will hurt the earnings of oil refiners also spread to PetroChina, which ended off 4.3%. The company has a 20% weighting in the Shanghai index and each 5% decline cuts 100 points off the index, analysts said.
Meanwhile, gains in utility stocks and Friday's rise in U.S. shares helped Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index close 0.6% higher at 25666.29.
Utility firms led Monday's blue-chip gains as investors sought defensive stocks. Hong Kong & China Gas /zigman2/quotes/201415617/delayed HK:3 -1.24% , the city's dominant gas supplier, climbed 1.8%. CLP /zigman2/quotes/204954538/delayed HK:2 -1.22% added 0.6% while Hongkong Electric /zigman2/quotes/201496043/delayed HK:6 -1.08% rose 0.4%.
China Life Insurance /zigman2/quotes/202359856/delayed HK:2628 +0.82% , China's largest life insurer by premiums, fell 1.6% after it reported a 61% drop in first-quarter net profit on lower investment income. Oil refiner Sinopec /zigman2/quotes/203060554/delayed HK:338 +2.99% also fell 2.7% on weak earnings results.
In Seoul, the Korea Composite Stock Index ended flat at 1823.17, as investors held back ahead of a U.S. Federal Reserve interest-rate decision later in the week.
China-linked companies declined as China's markets remained volatile. Machinery firms lost ground with Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction ending down 2.8% while Doosan Infracore lost 2.4%. SK Energy fell 3.6% on profit-taking after reporting a lower-than-expected first-quarter profit Friday.
Samsung Electronics was the star of the day, rising 3.8%. For the second session running, investors continued to be bullish about the stock as long-term outlook looked positive following better-than-expected first-quarter earnings. But Samsung's aggressive business expansion in the chip industry hurt Hynix Semiconductor's shares, which fell 5.2% following Friday's disappointing first-quarter earnings.
Elsewhere, Australian shares ended 0.3% higher at 5602.7, as profit-taking in big miners erased gains in the banking sector. BHP Billiton /zigman2/quotes/208108397/composite BHP -0.49% fell 2.9% and its takeover target Rio Tinto ended the day down 2.1%. Australia and New Zealand Banking /zigman2/quotes/205482049/delayed AU:ANZ -1.28% Group and National Australia Bank /zigman2/quotes/210431826/delayed AU:NAB -0.82% both closed up 3.2%, while Westpac rose 1.1%. And Qantas Airways /zigman2/quotes/205534063/delayed AU:QAN +6.44% ended 1.2% higher after saying it will raise its domestic and international airfares and suspend its share buyback to help offset soaring jet fuel prices.
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