By V. Phani Kumar, MarketWatch , Shri Navaratnam and Gaurav Raghuvanshi
HONG KONG (MarketWatch) -- Most Asian markets clinched gains Monday, with copper miners boosting Australian shares after China’s Minmetals Resources Ltd. launched a takeover offer for Equinox Minerals Ltd., while Japanese stocks were supported by a weakened yen.
Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK -0.65% finished 0.1% higher at 9,718.89 after a choppy trading session.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO -0.15% climbed 0.5% to 4,886.80, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI +0.55% rose 1.5% to 24,150.58. In afternoon trading, India’s Sensex gained 1.2% to 19,649.98.
Markets in China and Taiwan were closed for a public holiday.
Stocks of Japanese exporters struggled to hang on to gains during the session. Caution about how the March 11 natural disasters would affect corporate earnings tempered market sentiment despite the yen’s fall against the dollar and the euro, and upbeat U.S. jobs data for March.
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“It’s difficult for investors to be optimistic enough to test shares higher solely on a weaker yen since there is uncertainty about corporate profits with the (Fukushima) nuclear-power plant problems likely to drag on for some time,” said Yutaka Yoshii, general manager at Mito Securities.
Canon Inc. /zigman2/quotes/207639533/delayed JP:7751 -1.95% /zigman2/quotes/210242912/composite CAJ +1.05% ended unchanged and Toyota Motor Corp. /zigman2/quotes/200537742/composite TM +0.25% /zigman2/quotes/203803129/delayed JP:7203 0.00% fell 0.5%, with both finishing well off the day’s highs.
But Nikon Corp. /zigman2/quotes/209396469/delayed NINOY +0.49% /zigman2/quotes/203281219/delayed JP:7731 -1.75% added 0.5% and Mazda Motor Corp. /zigman2/quotes/206326885/delayed MZDAY -1.01% /zigman2/quotes/204777714/delayed JP:7261 -1.42% rose 1.1% as the U.S. dollar hovered around the 84 yen-level.
Also offering support to the market, Fast Retailing Co. /zigman2/quotes/203924235/delayed FRCOY -1.47% /zigman2/quotes/200663563/delayed JP:9983 +0.09% jumped 3.4% on a Credit Suisse upgrade to outperform from neutral.
IHI Corp. /zigman2/quotes/202440700/delayed JP:7013 -2.19% /zigman2/quotes/205491536/delayed IHICF 0.00% climbed 4% after the company signed a marketing deal with Sweden’s Atlas Copco AB, while Nippon Electric Glass Co. /zigman2/quotes/202964268/delayed JP:5214 -1.99% fell 2.2% on a Deutsche Securities downgrade to Hold.
The broad regional advance was underpinned by the stronger-than-expected U.S. jobs data and gains on Wall Street Friday.
More recently, Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -1.34% futures were up 10 points in screen trade, with some analysts saying investors were now focusing on the U.S. Federal Reserve’s policy moves in the short term.
“Although the next U.S. monetary-policy meeting is a few weeks away, with the end of QE2 in June fast approaching, markets are beginning to more seriously consider the Fed’s next move,” ANZ Bank said in a note to clients. “One thing seems certain, and that’s that the excess liquidity created by almost infinitely loose monetary policy will not last forever.”
The Australian stock market was supported by merger-and-acquisition activity in the copper- mining space.
Shares of Equinox /zigman2/quotes/206932612/delayed AU:EQN +2.56% soared 29% to 7.35 Australian dollars ($7.64) after China’s Minmetals launched a 7 Canadian dollar (A$6.98-a-share) takeover bid for the copper miner. In Hong Kong trading, shares of Minmetals /zigman2/quotes/206851174/delayed HK:1208 -1.41% rose 2.4%.