Asian stocks ended mostly higher Monday. Shares in Tokyo and Hong Kong benefited from rising oil prices, but property developers and financial firms led Shanghai's index lower.
In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 Stock Average rose 0.35% to close at 14269.61 points. Higher crude-oil prices lifted mining and oil shares. Light, sweet crude for June delivery gained $2.17 to settle at a record close of $126.29 a barrel Friday on the New York Mercantile Exchange, and Monday in electronic trade the contract was trading near $126.50. Inpex Holdings /zigman2/quotes/206689846/delayed JP:1605 -3.21% rose 5.3% and Nippon Oil gained 3.6%.
Steel issues gained on hopes that shipbuilders may agree to price increases. Nippon Steel /zigman2/quotes/209782682/delayed JP:5401 +0.88% shares climbed 5%.
Surging oil also helped lead Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index 0.5% higher to end at 25742.23.
Hong Kong-listed Chinese coal producers rose on upgrades from Goldman Sachs. "With oil price making new highs, we see coal entering a value territory," the firm said in a report. Shenhua Energy /zigman2/quotes/206065610/delayed HK:1088 +1.02% led the day's blue-chip gains, rising 6.9% after Goldman Sachs added the company to its "buy" list. Goldman also upgraded Yanzhou Coal /zigman2/quotes/208182033/delayed HK:1171 +0.50% and China Coal /zigman2/quotes/201486584/delayed HK:1898 0.00% to buy from neutral. Yanzhou Coal jumped 5.6% and China Coal advanced 5.3%.
Demand for China-related commodities producers also rose. China Molybdenum /zigman2/quotes/202330604/delayed HK:3993 -0.65% surged 13.5%, Anhui Conch /zigman2/quotes/204025278/delayed HK:914 +5.50% rose 4.7% and Jiangxi Copper /zigman2/quotes/201668148/delayed HK:358 +0.65% gained 3.8%.
"The resources sector is the hot topic at the moment, because investors are betting that there will be significant demand for raw materials to help in the reconstruction efforts in western China," said Francis Lun, general manager at Fulbright Securities.
Hong Kong property developers rose on the back of strong reported sales at several residential projects under development, analysts said. Cheung Kong /zigman2/quotes/208405501/delayed HK:1 +0.73% rose 1.6% and Sino Land /zigman2/quotes/202960683/delayed HK:83 +1.13% increased 1.7%. However, Sun Hung Kai Properties /zigman2/quotes/209086152/delayed HK:16 +1.53% fell 1.1% amid discord between the brothers who control the developer.
However, mainland property developers and financial companies dragged China's Shanghai Composite Index, which tracks both Class A and Class B shares, 0.5% lower to 3604.76.
Turnover was light, as investors moved to the sidelines for China's three-day national mourning period that began Monday. The securities regulator asked the country's stock exchanges to suspend trading Monday for three minutes to mourn the victims of the earthquake. (See related article.)
Investors are concerned that liquidity will become tight in the near term because of the rescue and reconstruction efforts in Sichuan province and the latest half-percentage-point increase in the reserve-requirement ratio for commercial banks.
Property developers and financial firms, which are vulnerable to declines in market liquidity, fell sharply. China Vanke lost 4.2% and Poly Real Estate Group fell 3.5%. China Merchants Bank declined 1.8% and Shanghai Pudong Development Bank slid 1.3%.
Bucking the trend, pharmaceutical firms and cement makers rose on expectations of quake-related reconstruction and rescue demand. Guangzhou Baiyunshan Pharmaceutical rose 1.9% and Huaxin Cement hit the 10% upper limit.
"More opportunities will show up after the market prices in all the negative effects of the earthquake, as government spending will possibly rise in the second half to repair the damage," said Wu Feng, an analyst at TX Investment.
In Seoul, the Korea Composite Stock Price Index ended 0.2% lower at 1885.37 as profit-taking in technology stocks outweighed gains in shipbuilders and shipping companies.
LG Electronics fell 6.3% after hitting record highs last week. Samsung Electronics -- which had also risen to new highs -- dropped 4.2%. Auto makers also declined, with Hyundai Motor losing 0.9% while Kia Motors plunged 8.1%.
However, gains in shipbuilders and shipping companies helped the Kospi pare some of its losses. Coupled with attractive valuation, a sustained rise in prices of new ships in global markets boosted Korean shipbuilders, analysts said. STX Shipbuilding jumped 10.2% and Hyundai Heavy Industries rose 5.3%. Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering ended 4.5% higher.
Increases in the Baltic Dry Index -- a closely watched barometer of bulk-shipping rates -- also lifted shipping companies. STX Pan Ocean surged 9.3% while Korea Express gained 6.9%.
Markets in Singapore, Malaysia and India were closed for holidays.
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