An earlier version of this story misstated the direction in which South Korea’s Kospi ended. The story has been corrected.
HONG KONG (MarketWatch) — Japanese stocks ended sharply higher to lead Asian markets on Thursday, catching a tailwind from the yen’s weakness as doubts about U.S. monetary stimulus lifted the dollar.
Hong Kong shares did a U-turn in afternoon trading to finish lower on weaker-than-expected earnings from heavyweight China Mobile Ltd., while Chinese stocks ended lower as a contraction in July foreign direct investment shifted focus to the country’s economy health.
Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK +0.34% jumped 1.9% to end at 9,092.76, its first close above the 9,000-point level since July 6. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO +0.25% rose 1.1%, Taiwan’s Taiex added 0.3% and South Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 -0.67% rose 0.1%.
Going the other way, the Shanghai Composite Index /zigman2/quotes/206600939/delayed CN:000001 +2.30% lost 0.3% after data showing foreign direct investment contracted 8.7% in July from a year earlier. Read more on China's FDI drop.
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But while the Chinese markets didn’t immediately respond to Premier Wen Jiabao’s remarks Wednesday that he sees “growing room for monetary policy action,” analysts interpreted the comments as a positive sign for markets.
“Investors should draw comfort from his confidence, and speculation will revive about some form of People’s Bank of China action,” said Dariusz Kowalczyk, a senior economist at Credit Agricole.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI -0.17% dropped 0.5%, weighed by a 5% drop in shares of China Mobile /zigman2/quotes/200868736/delayed HK:941 -0.45% /zigman2/quotes/204514293/composite CHL -0.67% after the company said its first-half profit grew just 1.5% from the year-ago period, falling short of estimates. Read full report on China Mobile earnings.
Japanese exporters got a boost from currency moves, with car makers particularly strong. Honda Motor Co. /zigman2/quotes/200490352/delayed JP:7267 +2.22% /zigman2/quotes/207173990/composite HMC +0.92% shares were up 2.1%, Toyota Motor Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203803129/delayed JP:7203 +2.77% /zigman2/quotes/200537742/composite TM +0.92% jumped 3.2% and Mazda Motor Corp. /zigman2/quotes/204777714/delayed JP:7261 +1.70% /zigman2/quotes/206646681/delayed MZDAF +3.07% advanced 3.3%.
The gains followed the dollar’s appreciation, as the strong tone of recent economic data led some Federal Reserve watchers to doubt it will launch another bond buying program next month. Read more on Fed easing expectations.
Also getting a lift, Sony Corp. /zigman2/quotes/201361720/delayed JP:6758 +2.06% /zigman2/quotes/208567357/composite SNE -0.49% jumped 3.9% and Canon Inc. /zigman2/quotes/207639533/delayed JP:7751 -0.11% /zigman2/quotes/210242912/composite CAJ -0.87% rose 2.8%.
In Hong Kong, the losses for China Mobile stock overpowered earnings-driven gains for some other firms. Internet firm Tencent Holdings Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/204605823/delayed HK:700 -0.34% /zigman2/quotes/207908563/delayed TCEHY -1.77% jumped 6.4% after reporting a 32% rise in second-quarter net profit following an increase in advertising revenue.
/zigman2/quotes/204605823/delayed 700 410.00, -1.40, -0.34%
/zigman2/quotes/205368244/delayed 992 5.80, +0.38, +7.01%
Lenovo Group Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/205368244/delayed HK:992 +7.01% /zigman2/quotes/204000062/delayed LNVGY +5.66% jumped 6.3%. China’s largest personal computer maker by shipments said that its first-quarter net profit rose 30% from the same period a year ago due to strong growth in shipments. Read more on Lenovo earnings.
AMP Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/206014407/delayed AU:AMP -1.44% /zigman2/quotes/206400018/delayed AMLTF -0.84% advanced 4.8% in Sydney after the wealth manager said its first-half net profit rose 10%, boosted by its purchase of AXA Asia Pacific’s Australian and New Zealand operations. Read more on AMP earnings.
Wesfarmers Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/204567133/delayed AU:WES +0.84% climbed 3.8% after the conglomerate reported an 11% advance in fiscal-year net profit to 2.13 billion Australian dollars ($2.2 billion) after a strong performance at its supermarket operations.
Energy-sector companies were advancing across Asia, after benchmark Nymex crude futures hit a three-month settlement high in New York on Wednesday. Read more on oil.
Cnooc Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/203421416/delayed HK:883 +1.16% /zigman2/quotes/204964401/composite CEO +0.43% shares rose 0.5% in Hong Kong, while Inpex Corp. /zigman2/quotes/206936121/delayed IPXHF +5.94% /zigman2/quotes/206689846/delayed JP:1605 +2.88% gained 1.7% in Tokyo.
Woodside Petroleum Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/203437212/delayed AU:WPL +0.06% /zigman2/quotes/206770672/delayed WOPEF +3.37% rose 1.5% and Beach Energy Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/200513631/delayed AU:BPT 0.00% /zigman2/quotes/209616278/delayed BCHEY -11.10% climbed 3% in Sydney.