Mar 22, 2008

International Markets - Asian Stocks ended higher in holiday thinned trading

Asian Stocks ended higher in holiday thinned trading - 21st March 2008

Asian stocks ended mostly higher, although gains were capped in holiday-thinned trading that saw financial shares such as Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and Kookmin Bank leading the action in Tokyo and Seoul, while shares in Taipei also moved higher in the final trading session before weekend presidential elections.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 Average ended 1.8% higher at 12,482.57. The market was closed Thursday for a public holiday. The Topix index added 2% to close at 1,220.04. Seoul's Korea Composite Stock Index, or Kospi, was up 1.4% at 1,645.69.

Shanghai's Composite Index fell 0.2% to 3,982.80, reversing earlier gains.

In Taiwan weighted index added 2.3% to 8,524.99, notching its biggest weekly advance this year. Friday's session is the final day of trade before presidential elections Saturday. The two main candidates have pledged to improve political relations with China and open trade and investment links.

In other regional action, Thailand's SET index added 0.5% and Malaysia's KLSE index was little changed, rising 0.02%.

Markets in Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, India, Indonesia, Philippines and Singapore are closed for public holidays.

Electronic exchanges dealing in crude oil futures were closed Friday. The May contract for light crude oil, the front-month contact from Thursday, ended down 70 cents, or 0.7% at $101.84 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In currency trading Friday, the U.S. dollar fetched 99.63 yen, compared to 99.30 yen in late trading in New York.

The advance in Asian shares follows a stronger session for U.S. markets Thursday that lifted indexes to their first-in-four broad-based weekly gain.

Continuing a recent trend of triple-digit swings in either direction, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied 261.66 points, or almost 2.2%, to 12,361.32, giving it a 3.5% rise from the prior week's close. The U.S. stock market is closed Friday.

The S&P 500 Index gained 31.09 points, or 2.4%, to 1,329.51, placing the index 3.3% ahead of where it stood at last Friday's close.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 48.15 points, or 2.2%, to 2,258.11, up 2.1% from last week's close.