Asian stocks mostly higher as Syria fears subside
HONG KONG—Asian markets mostly edged up on Wednesday, with a rally on Wall Street and optimism about the state of the global economy helped by receding fears of a US-led strike on Syria.
However, profit-taking capped gains after the previous two days’ advances, while firms linked to Apple dipped in a lackluster response to its latest range of iPhones.
Tokyo ended flat owing to a late sell-off as dealers cashed in after a four percent gain since the weekend that was fueled by Japan’s successful bid to host the 2020 Olympics and stronger-than-expected growth data.
The Nikkei ended 1.71 points higher at 14,425.07, while Sydney added 0.64 percent, or 33.2 points, to 5,234.4—a 2013 high. Seoul closed 0.49 percent higher, advancing 9.79 points to 2,003.85.
Shanghai rose 0.15 percent, adding 3.28 points to end at 2,241.27, after another round of Chinese indicators that suggest the world’s No. 2 economy is picking up after a slowdown this year. However, Hong Kong was 0.17 percent, or 39.51 points, lower at 22,937.14, ending four straight sessions of gains.
US President Barack Obama vowed in a national address in Washington on Tuesday to give diplomacy a chance before launching a military attack on Syria for using chemical weapons on its own people last month.
The Assad regime earlier in the day agreed to a proposal by Russia to “place the chemical weapons under international control and then have them destroyed.”
The news soothed tensions on global markets, which slumped last month as traders bet on an attack by the US and its allies, which they feared could spark a wider conflict in the Middle East.
Improving confidence among investors helped the dollar up against the yen, which is considered a safer bet in times of uncertainty.
In the afternoon the greenback bought 100.30 yen, compared with 100.40 yen late New York and well up from the 99.60 yen in Asia on Tuesday.
The euro fetched 132.92 yen and $1.3258 against 132.48 yen and $1.3251.
Regional markets were given a positive lead by Wall Street on the back of the Syria developments and the economic data out of China and Japan that suggest a healthy pick-up in the global economy. The Dow rose 0.85 percent, the S&P 500 added 0.73 percent and the Nasdaq advanced 0.62 percent.
Oil prices rose after seeing heavy falls in New York when easing Syria woes reduced concern about supply from the Middle East. New York’s main contract, West Texas Intermediate for delivery in October, rose 37 cents to $107.76 a barrel in afternoon trade, while Brent North Sea crude for October gained 85 cents to $112.10.
Both contracts had hit multi-month peaks in August, at the height of the Syrian crisis.
Apple-linked firms were broadly lower, with investors less than enthusiastic about the US firm’s latest iPhones, which it unveiled on Tuesday. There was also disappointment that a trumpeted low-cost phone was not as cheap as had been hoped for.
Taiwanese assembler Hon Hai fell 1.3 percent to Tw$76.00 and camera-lens supplier Largan shed 6.4 percent to Tw$945.00, while in Tokyo parts supplier Murata Manufacturing Co. fell 2.6 percent
Gold cost $1,361.73 an ounce at 1045 GMT compared with $1,372.04 late Tuesday.
In other markets:
— Mumbai ended flat, up 0.36 points to close at 19,997.45 points, but erased all intraday losses, as the rupee rose to 63.42 against the dollar from its previous close of 63.85.
India’s steel producer Tata Steel rose 5.07 percent to 316.0 rupees while private aluminium producer Hindalco rose 3.81 percent to 114.30 rupees.
— Taipei was flat, edging up 0.22 points to close at 8,208.99.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. was flat at Tw$104.5 but Fubon Financial was 1.2 percent up at Tw$40.85.
— Singapore closed down 0.50 percent, or 15.70 points, at 3,108.19.
DBS Bank eased 1.15 percent to Sg$16.31 while Singapore Airlines gained 0.30 percent to Sg$10.03.
— Manila rose 2.06 percent, or 125.18 points, to 6,214.90.
Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. climbed 1.47 percent to 2,890 pesos while Ayala Land added 5.53 percent to end at 26.70 pesos.
— Wellington rose 0.15 percent, or 7.14 points, to 4,634.90.
Fletcher Building added 0.9 percent to NZ$9.50 and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare added 0.3 percent to NZ$3.70.
— Jakarta ended down 8.72 points, or 0.20 percent, at 4,349.42.
Cement maker Semen Indonesia lost 5.17 percent to 13,750 rupiah, while car maker Astra International fell 2.36 percent to 6,200 rupiah.
— Bangkok added 1.29 percent, or 18.01 points, to 1,411.18.
Import and export firm Berli Jucker jumped 7.88 percent to 44.50 baht, while Delta Electronics gained 5.59 percent to 47.25 baht.
— Kuala Lumpur’s main share index ended 3.53 points higher, or 0.20 percent, at 1768.48.
Gainers included shipping company MISC, which rose 2.2 percent to 5.15 ringgit, and PPB Group, which added 2.1 percent to 14.38 ringgit. Property developer UEM Sunrise dipped 2.0 percent to 2.47 ringgit.—Danny McCord