Asia stocks gain amid modest Nikkei recovery

Monday, May 27th, 2013 | Finance News

BANGKOK (AP) — Investors seeking bargains helped push Japan's benchmark stock index higher Tuesday after a sharp sell-off the day before. Other Asian markets registered relief with slight gains.

The Nikkei has been on a rollercoaster ride since last Thursday, when it plummeted more than 7 percent after interest rates on the country's benchmark 10-year bond spiked to above 1 percent for the first time in a year. The swing in Japanese bonds unnerved investors at a time when Japan's already overburdened government finances are vulnerable to rises in interest rates.

Overall, however, the index has soared 37 percent this year, a show of investor support for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his aggressive policies aimed at reversing years of economic malaise and deflation.

The Nikkei 225 index rose 1.7 percent to 14,384.67 as the yen slipped against the dollar; the benchmark fell 3 percent on Tuesday. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.1 percent to 22,717.86. South Korea's Kospi gained 0.4 percent to 1,986.14. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 advanced 0.3 percent to 4,975.50.

"It seems there is not too much momentum, but maybe some traders are doing some bargain hunting," said Linus Yip, strategist at First Shanghai Securities in Hong Kong.

Investors were also awaiting the release later Tuesday of data on U.S. consumer confidence and home prices. The data will be scrutinized for how it might influence the Fed, which is undertaking its third round of aggressive bond-buying to help the economy. Speculation that the U.S. central bank might scale back the program based on a recent improvement in some economic indicators has sparked jitters in stock markets.

"The next move of the Federal Reserve is still the question for most investors," said Yip.

The consumer confidence data will highlight the ongoing improvement in sentiment driven by both equity and housing wealth gains, said Mitul Kotecha of Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong in a market commentary. "In the debate about early Fed tapering the confidence data will err on the side reducing Fed asset purchases sooner rather than later."

Among individual stocks, Hong Kong-listed Fosun International jumped 3.6 percent, a day after the Shanghai-based investment company announced a proposal to buy out Club Mediterranee. Fosun and Axa Private Equity of France said Monday they would make an offer for the French vacation sort operator in the coming days. The two companies are Club Med's largest shareholders.

Mitsubishi Motors jumped more than 14 percent, a day after the company announced the opening of its first after-sales service shop in Myanmar, Kyodo News reported.

In European trading Monday, both Germany's DAX and France's CAC-40 closed higher. European Central Bank board member Joerg Asmussen pledged in a speech in Berlin that the bank would continue to pursue easy monetary policy "as long as necessary" due to the region's recession. Stocks in the U.S. and Britain were closed Monday for public holidays.

Benchmark oil for July delivery was down 42 cents to $93.73 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 10 cents to close at $94.15 per barrel on the Nymex on Friday.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.2915 from $1.2934 late Monday in Europe. The dollar rose to 102 yen from 100.99.

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