Taiwan stands out in mixed Asian markets

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Asian markets were mixed on Monday, having to look internally for direction with the US closed for trading over the Easter period.

Bourses in Australia, Hong Kong, and New Zealand were shut for Easter Monday.

Taiwan stood out in the region, with shares surging to four-month highs and the currency scaling decade peaks after the opposition candidate Ma Ying-jeou won the island’s presidential election over the weekend, spurring confidence that economic ties with China would expand.

The Taiwan Weighted index jumped more than 6 per cent before settling up 4 per cent at 8,865.35, the highest since November. Taiwan Semiconductor led the advance, gaining 4 per cent to T$67.40. Hon Hai, which makes precision technology, soared 5.4 per cent to T$185.50. Cathay Financial gained 7 per cent to T$86.87.60.

The Taiwan dollar rose to its strongest in 10½ years against the US dollar, recently trading at 30.187.

In Japan, the Nikkei closed almost flat at 12,480.09 as early gains faded, while the broader Topix ended 0.3 per cent higher at 1,224.15. Automakers were boosted by reports that Nissan expects to beat its own sales target for the year. Its shares jumped 3.6 per cent to Y890, while Honda gained 2.6 per cent to Y2,950 and Toyota rose 1 per cent to Y5,270.

A steadying yen helped ease some pressure on exporter stocks, adding to confidence in companies such as Nintendo, which gained 3.1 per cent to Y53,300. The Japanese currency tipped back over into 100 territory late in Asian trading, after trading around 99.83 against the US dollar during the Japanese session following last week’s surge to as high as 95.77.

But Sony extended losses from Friday after disappointing results from its Sony Ericsson venture, dropping another 0.7 per cent.

The paper and pulp and iron and steel sub indexes posted some of the biggest gains on the Topix, as lower oil prices reduce costs. Paper and pulp gained 2.4 per cent, while iron and steel increased 3.7 per cent. Shares of Oji Paper gained 3.4 per cent to Y461, while Nippon Steel added 3.4 per cent to Y461.

Crude oil for May delivery was trading around $100.53 in Asia from a previous record of over $111 per barrel.

Chinese shares resumed their decline despite the authorities’ last week suspending the collection of corporate taxes from mutual funds, with the Shanghai Composite index sliding 4.5 per cent 3,626.188. Shanghai shares ”stood out like a sore thumb today,” said Tim Condon, head of financial markets research for Asia at ING. ”When this happens I generally think the market’s trying to tell us there’s another PBOC tightening measure coming.”

Ping An Insurance led, tumbling 9.8 per cent to Rmb50.56. Industrial Bank slumped 9.4 per cent to Rmb31.83 and Merchants Bank fell 5.8 per cent to Rmb28.60.

Indian stocks were up 0.7 per cent at 15.102.43 in the afternoon in Mumbai after rising around 2 per cent earlier. Housing Development Finance Corp. gained 6.9 per cent to Rs2,365, but gains on the overall index were eroded by JSW Steel’s slump of 13 per cent to Rs780.65 after a recent report that the government may impose a tax on steel exports to stem inflation.

Over in Seoul, the Kospi rose 0.6 per cent to 1,655.30. Kookmin Bank gained 2 per cent to Won55,000, while Posco was up 1.3 per cent at Won464,000. Singapore shares climbed 3.4 per cent to 2,921.35,

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