Asian Markets Mixed as Caution Tempers Hope

TOKYO — Asian markets flitted in and out of positive territory Tuesday, buoyed by hopes for stimulus measures by the world's biggest economies but unable to shake off pervasive concerns about the global outlook.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 stock average climbed 39.45 points, or 0.5 percent, to 8,368.50, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index fell 0.8 percent to 14,919.20.

Key indices in New Zealand, Taiwan, Singapore and the Phillipines joined Tokyo's advance. But markets in mainland China, South Korea and Australia turned lower.

Investors are trying to be optimistic about the various measures that have been announced in China and the U.S., said Song Seng Wun, head of research at CIMB Securities in Singapore.

"The markets are taking a view that the depression scenario can be avoided and a recession can be cushioned," Song said. "But we may not be able to say this is a turning point yet."

Overnight on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrials rose nearly 3 percent to 8,934.18, their highest level in a month following President-elect Barack Obama's promise to increase infrastructure spending to lift the economy. His plan calls for the largest U.S. public works program since the creation of the interstate highway system a half-century ago.

Obama's pledge has boosted shares of commodities companies in anticipation of new demand. They extended their gains Tuesday, with Australian mining company BHP Billiton Ltd. up 4.2 percent.

Relief may also be in sight for Detroit's automakers. The White House said Monday that it was "very likely" to strike an agreement with Congress on funneling money to General Motors Corp., Chrysler LLC and Ford Motor Co.

The optimism bolstered stocks in Japan, where investors pay close attention to signals coming from the vital U.S. market, despite a government report showing that Japan's economy fell into a deeper recession than initially estimated.

The Cabinet Office said that the world's second-largest economy shrank at an annual pace of 1.8 percent in the July-September period, compared with its original estimate of a 0.4 percent contraction.

Japanese automakers rose sharply, with Nissan Motor Co. jumping 4.6 percent and Honda Motor Co. up 3.9 percent.

In currencies, the dollar fell to 92.78 yen from 93.03 yen late Monday. The euro stood at $1.2882 from $1.2919.

Oil, meanwhile, was steady near $44 a barrel as investors anticipated that OPEC will announce a big production cut next week to stabilize crude prices that have fallen about 70 percent in five months.

U.S. stock index futures were down, suggesting Wall Street would slip back Tuesday. Dow futures were down 53 points, or 0.6 percent, to 8,822, while S&P futures were down 6.6 points, or 0.7 percent, to 898.1.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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