Asian Markets Rise; Indian Stocks Dip Again

Most Asian stock markets rose Friday as investors bought beaten-down shares on hopes that China's big interest rate cut will stimulate growth and optimism over Wall Street's four-day rally.

Indian stocks edged lower after a one-day suspension of trading due to terrorist attacks in Mumbai, the country's financial center, that left at least 119 people dead. The benchmark Sensex index opened 1 percent lower and then fluctuated in and out of postive territory. In late morning trading, it was down 0.2 percent at 9,011.

Across the region, Mumbai attacks — as well as Bangkok's airport shutdown, which entered its fourth day — did little to dampen improving investor sentiment. Thailand's SET index was up 1.2 percent at 394.29.

"The market is reacting very calmly to the terrorist attack," said Francis Lun, general manager of Fulbright Securities Ltd. in Hong Kong. "Investors in Hong Kong are still fixated on China's huge reduction in interest rates. There's bargain-hunting across the board."

There are some hopes in markets that a raft of policy measures around the world, such as the rescue of Citigroup Inc., may limit the scale of the global downturn next year, though the upcoming Christmas sales period is not expected to be particularly good for retailers.

Investors will be closely watching indications of sales on Friday across the United States. The day after the Thanksgiving holiday is traditionally one of the biggest shopping days of the year.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was up 299.44 points, or 2.2 percent, to 13,851.50, while Japan's Nikkei 225 index was up 0.8 percent at 8,445.52.

Australia's benchmark S&P/ASX200 index surged 4.3 percent. South Korea's market was also up.

Japanese investors were heartened by a relatively strong showing by European shares Thursday as they made some end-of-month purchases, said Seichi Miura, a strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Securities in Tokyo. On Thursday, Britain's FTSE 100 index rose 1.8 percent, while Germany's DAX gained 2.3 percent.

Investors also were waiting to see how the terror attacks in India played out, Miura said. "Right now, it doesn't appear to be a sell or buy factor."

In Hong Kong, investors were buying up shares of property companies, as well as China Shenhua Energy Ltd., in reaction to Beijing's recent moves to stimulate the economy through a multibillion dollar spending program and a 1.08 percentage point rate cut announced Wednesday — the biggest in 11 years. China Mobile was another gainer, up 3.3 percent.

With Wall Street closed Thursday for Thanksgiving, regional investors were still feeling upbeat about the U.S. market's four-day gain — a feat not seen in months.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed 2.9 percent higher Wednesday at 8,726.61, its first four-day winning streak since April 15-18. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index advanced 3.5 percent to 887.68, its first four-day advance since May.

The rally came despite further poor news on the American economy, a vital export market. Figures showed durable goods orders in October slumped by a two-year high rate of 6.2 percent, new home sales at a 17-year low and consumer sentiment languishing at a 28-year low.

U.S. stock index futures were higher. Dow futures were up 20 points at 8,718 while S&P futures were up 1.8 points at 888.

Oil prices fell below $54 a barrel in Asia as investors eyed a possible production cut by OPEC this weekend amid a gloomy global demand outlook. Light, sweet crude for January delivery was down $1.10 to $53.34 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange by midday in Singapore.

In currencies, the dollar dipped to 95.27 yen, while the euro edged up to $1.2913.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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