Most Asian Markets Rise Amid New Stimulus Plans

Most Asian markets were higher Tuesday but trimmed early gains, as optimism over new stimulus measures in Japan and Australia gave way to concerns about the sputtering global economy.

The Bank of Japan said it would buy some 1 trillion yen ($11.2 billion) in corporate shares held by financial institutions to cap their exposure to volatile equities markets. Meanwhile, Australia's leader announced 42 billion Australian dollars ($26 billion) in fresh spending to help the country's resources-based economy.

Despite gains in most markets, sentiment was still wary across the region amid more evidence of economic weakness. In the U.S. overnight, data showed personal spending and total construction spending continued to erode last month in the world's largest economy, a vast market for Asian products.

"People are looking toward stimulus packages with cautious optimism, but I wouldn't say we're breaking the shackles that are holding us back," said Miles Remington, head of Asian sales trading at BNP Paribas Securities in Hong Kong. "I don't think the global economy has really changed on a fundamental basis."

The Nikkei 225 stock average fell 48.47 points, or about 0.6 percent, to 7,825.51 after trading about 1 percent higher earlier in the session as the central bank announced its latest effort to help ailing financial companies.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index added 0.6 percent to 12,940.98, South Korea's Kospi was up 1.4 percent at 1,163.20 points and Australia's key stock measure rose 0.3 percent.

Markets in India, China, Singapore and Taiwan also advanced.

Select Japanese bank shares got support from news of the stock purchase plan, with Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc. up 1.7 percent and Mizuho Financial Group Inc. adding 1.4 percent. However, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc., the country's largest bank, shed 0.8 percent.

Tech companies were among the day's best performers, following similar gains in U.S. markets overnight. Samsung Electronics rose 4 percent in South Korea, Canon Inc. edged 3.6 percent higher in Tokyo and Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision advanced 2.4 percent.

In New York, selling in industrial, energy and financial stocks sent the Dow Jones industrial average down 64.03, or 0.80 percent, to 7,936.83.

Broaders indicators were mixed, with the Standard & Poor's 500 index slipping 0.44 to 825.44, but the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite rising 18.01, or 1.2 percent, to 1,494.43.

Oil prices gained slightly in Asian trade, with light, sweet crude for March delivery rose 35 cents to $40.43 a barrel by midday in Singapore in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.60 overnight to settle at $40.08.

In currencies, the dollar was little changed at 89.38 yen. The euro rose to $1.2835, compared to $1.2856.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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