Apr 3, 2008

International Markets - 01 Apr 2008

Asian Markets end mixed on the first day of second quarter

Asian stocks traded mixed, with Nikon Corp. fronting advances in Japanese technology stocks, while Samsung Electronic Co. led South Korean stocks higher after the technology giant said it was seeking to raise wholesale prices for its random-access memory chips in April. Markets in Shanghai retreated following comments by the People's Bank of China yesterday indicating a more hawkish stance on monetary policy.

In Sydney investors were cautious during a session that saw the Reserve Bank of Australia hold interest rates unchanged at 7.25%, as expected, while its accompanying statement offered a dovish tone on the outlook for further rate hikes. The S&P/ASX 200 ended the session with a gain of 0.1% to 5,361.20.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 Average was up 1%, rising to 12,656.42. The Topix index added 1.4% to 1,230.49. Japanese markets shrugged off the quarterly Tankan report from the Bank of Japan showing confidence among large companies had deteriorated to the most pessimistic level in more than four years. The poll also showed firms plan to reduce capital expenditure by 1.6% from last year's level in the 12-month period which begins today

However in Seoul, the Korean Composite Index, or Kospi, dropped marginally by 0.1% to 1,702.25 as South Korea's consumer price index rose 3.9 % in March from a year earlier as higher cost of crude and other raw materials pushed up prices of industrial goods. The National Statistical Office said the low comparative base last year, higher service fees and a weaker currency contributed to the acceleration in consumer prices last month. In March 2007 CPI was up 2.2 percent.

Shanghai's Composite Index fell 4.1% to 3,329.16 following comments by the People's Bank of China yesterday indicating a more hawkish stance on monetary policy. The benchmark fell 3% Monday, capping a 34% decline for the quarter, marking its worst performance since 1992.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index climbed 1.3% to 23,137.46. The China Enterprises Index, a local benchmark for mainly Chinese state-owned shares, added 1.3% to 12,237.36. In Taipei, the weighted Price Index of the Taiwan fell 1.8% to 8,419.72.

Malaysia's KLSE Composite fell by 0.4% to 1,242.92 while New Zealand's NZX-50 rose 1.8% to 3,533.56. Indonesia's Jakarta Composite was down 3.4% while Thailand's SET added 0.06%.

In the afternoon trading Singapore's Straits Times Index climbed 1.2% to 3,042.62 while Indias Sensex was marginally up by 0.1% to 15,661.70.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, gold futures finished down $15 an ounce. In after-hours electronic trading, front gold futures rebounded $2.7 to $921.60 an ounce.

Crude-oil futures trade lower, rose as much as 16 cents to $101.74 a barrel. The May contract for crude oil fell $4.04 to settle at $101.58 a barrel in Monday's session on Nymex.

The European stocks started the second quarter on an upbeat note, with financials moving higher as investors welcomed moves to draw a line under exposure to the troubled U.S. housing market. In the opening trade the U.K. FTSE 100 index moved up 0.6% to 5,731.40, the German DAX 30 index rose 0.6% to 6,573.23 and the French CAC-40 index rose 0.6% to 4,735.66.

Meanwhile according to the data release, a purchasing managers index for U.K. manufacturers that held steady in March, posting a reading of 51.3. It is followed by manufacturing purchasing managers index for Euro zone, which fell to 52.0 in March against 52.3 of February.