Korean stocks outshine lacklustre Asia-Pacific

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Seoul bucked the flat-to-lower trend across much of the Asia-Pacific region, taking the Kospi Composite index of South Korean stocks to a fresh closing high.

The Kospi index rose 0.9 per cent to 2,141.06, in spite of suffering an early sell-off related to options expiries. Its performance helped lift the FTSE Asia Pacific index by 0.2 per cent to 263.81.

Green Cross was among the Kospi’s top gainers after the drug company’s flu vaccine received “prequalification” approval from the World Health Organisation. This, the company said, would put it in a better position to bid to supply the vaccine globally to projects undertaken by WHO bodies. Green Cross shares rose 11.2 per cent to Won138,500.

Carmakers and their suppliers were buoyed by robust earnings expectations. Hyundai Motor climbed 4.5 per cent to Won222,000 after its Indian unit said it would introduce two new models a year, while affiliate Kia Motors added 2.5 per cent to Won75,300. Dayou Automotive Seat Technology was the index leader, jumping 15 per cent to Won2,185.

The strengthening yen weighed on Japanese exporters, while investors became increasingly concerned about the nuclear crisis in Japan, but the Nikkei 225 managed to claw back early losses to finish 0.1 per cent to the good at 9,653.92.

Isuzu Motors bucked the weaker trend in the auto sector, rising 6.2 per cent to Y310 after it was reported that Volkswagen was considering taking over the truckmaker. Isuzu later denied the report.

In Sydney, resource stocks continued their sell off following weak first-quarter production results from Rio Tinto. Its shares dropped 0.7 per cent to A$85.12.

Elsewhere in the resources sector investors continued to take the advice of Goldman Sachs, which said short-term profits should be taken following a strong run. OZ Minerals lost 4.1 per cent to A$1.53, while Energy Resources of Australia shed 4.7 per cent to A$6.56.

Leighton Holdings, Australia’s largest builder, dropped 11.9 per cent to A$24.93 after predicting a loss for 2011.

In China, prospects of higher earnings boosted banks, but property companies fell following reports that Shenzhen might announce measures to curb house prices. The Shanghai Composite shed 0.3 per cent to 3,042.6. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index lost 0.5 per cent to 24,014.

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