ASIA MARKETS: Asia Stocks Gain, As Smartphone Sales Help Japan
01/29/2013| 09:43pm US/Eastern
By Sarah Turner, MarketWatch
SYDNEY (MarketWatch) -- Asia stocks mostly gained Wednesday, with Hong Kong and Australian markets hovering around multi-year highs ahead of a policy decision from the U.S. Federal Reserve, while selected Japanese shares benefitted from smartphone exposure.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index jumped 1% after hitting an intraday level not seen since May 2011 early in the session, while the Shanghai Composite Index inched up 0.2%.
Japan's Nikkei Stock Average rose 1.2%, Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index edged 0.2% up to extend a 21-month high and nine-session winning streak, while South Korea's Kospi also inched up 0.2%.
Earnings outlooks gave the Japanese market an extra boost on Wednesday, as Yahoo Japan Corp. (>> Yahoo Japan Corporation) surged 15.7% after updating its fiscal-year earnings forecast to a 10%-11% gain year-on-year, amid growing online advertising revenue, including for smartphones.
Telecoms also saw earnings-related buying, with Softbank Corp. (>> Softbank Corp) improving by 1.5% after the Nikkei reported that the wireless carrier is expected to post a 10% gain for its April-December operating profit, helped by sales of Apple Inc.'s (>> Apple Inc.) iPhone.
Rival KDDI Corp. (>> KDDI Corp) -- which also sells the iPhone, and which already posted a 40% gain in its October-December operating profit late Monday -- saw its shares rise another 1.7% on Wednesday.
Also among the wireless carriers, NTT DoCoMo Inc. (>> NTT Docomo Inc) traded up 0.4%, even as a separate Nikkei report tipped a 9% lower nine-month operating profit for the firm.
Central Japan Railway Co. jumped 7% after reporting a 49% rise in nine-month net profit, while rival rail operator Keisei Electric Railway Co. rose 1.4%.
In Hong Kong, companies exposed to the global economy were pulling higher, as ports operator China Merchants Holdings International Co. (0144.HK) gained 2.2%, and Cosco Pacific Ltd. (>> COSCO PAC ADR) rose 1.7%, while footwear major Belle International Holdings Ltd. (>> BELLE INT ADR) advanced 1.7%.
In South Korean trading, Samsung Electronics Inc. (>> Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.) climbed 0.9%, while fellow chip maker SK Hynix Inc. (>> HYNIX SEMI GDS) rose 1.2% after reporting a swing to quarterly profit, thanks to rising chip demand after the release of new smartphones and other devices.
Australia saw major mineral extractors advance, with Rio Tinto Ltd. (>> Rio Tinto plc) up 1.4%, and BHP Billiton Ltd. (>> Rio Tinto plc) higher by 1.1%.
The move in the mining sector offset losses for consumer-staples firms, including Coles supermarket owner Wesfarmers Ltd. [(>> WESFARMER ADR), which traded down 2.3% after reporting second-quarter sales figures.
U.S. monetary policy will be front and center for investors Wednesday, with the Federal Reserve due to wrap up a two-day policy meeting later Wednesday. Investors were on alert for any signals as to the duration of the Fed's bond-buying program.
With Spanish and U.S. gross domestic product figures also due out, "data releases ahead of the Fed [Federal Open Market Committee] rate decision today will keep markets busy, but activity will be limited, and markets will move sideways until the Fed delivers its outcome," Crédit Agricole strategist Mitul Kotecha said.
U.S. stock gains Tuesday set up a mostly positive lead for Asia, with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. (>> Pfizer Inc.) leading blue-chip gains after reporting fourth-quarter earnings that beat estimates.
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Stocks mentioned in the article : Yahoo Japan Corporation
, Rio Tinto plc
, Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.
, Softbank Corp
, Apple Inc.
, BELLE INT ADR
, COSCO PAC ADR
, NTT Docomo Inc
, HYNIX SEMI GDS
, KDDI Corp
, Pfizer Inc.
, WESFARMER ADR