Asian Markets Rebound, Chinese Airline and Japanese Electronics Stocks Surge

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Markets in Asia closed higher Thursday. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index climbed 1.6% to 20,356 and in Japan the Nikkei 225 Index also gained 1.6% to close at 10,414. In China the Shanghai Composite Index added 0.3%, ending the day at 2,994.After six days of declines, shares in Hong Kong rose with analysts saying many investors took advantage of lower prices today. While the tightened restrictions on lending by Chinese banks remains real, investors piled into the market.

A drop in the price of crude oil combined with the upcoming Chinese New Year holidays, which always spur a frenzy of travel, and sent airline shares up. Air China surged 3.9%, China Southern Airlines climbed 2.8%, China Eastern Airlines rose 2.7% and Cathay Pacific Airways crept up 0.5%.

Railway companies also rose today: China Railway Construction Corp. advanced 2.6%, China Railway Group rose 1.8% after releasing a statement denying charges by an African human rights group that the company was mistreating Congolese laborers working on projects to renovate railways, roads and other construction projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Congolese government has entered an agreement worth billions of dollars for China Railway to help with the rebuilding. According to a report by the BBC, as part of the deal China will also get access to Congo's natural resources including copper and cobalt mines.

In other Hong Kong action, Esprit Holdings leaped 5.8% after sliding more than 9% in the past few days and Li & Fung, supplier of clothing and toys to Wal-Mart and Target, rose 0.9%.

In Japan, electronics companies climbed after Obama urged Congress to approve tax cuts that would stimulate spending in the U.S. and the dollar strengthened slightly against the yen. Companies dependent on American shoppers recorded gains. Sony spiked up 4.9%, Hitachi gained 4.6% and Casio Computer added 2.6%. Gaming companies also added value: Sony rocketed up 4.9% and Nintendo rose 2.5%.

Honda advanced 3.3%, benefiting from the expanding Toyota recall that sent shares in that carmaker plunging 3.9%. Toyota may now increase its recall of cars with malfunctioning accelerator pedals to Europe, sending carbuyers heading towards other manufacturers. The damage may tarnish Toyota's image for some time. Mazda surged 3.1% in Tokyo.

Chinese banks continued to slide today due to Beijing's newly imposed restrictions on lending. China Citic Bank plummeted 3.2%, Bank of Communications dived 3.1%, Industrial & Commercial Bank slipped 0.8%, China Construction Bank lost 0.5%.

Despite the threat of cash-strapped, loan-free customers, some Chinese car companies fared well today. FAW Car gained 2.5%, Anhui Jianghuai Automobile rose 2.2% and DongFeng Automobile was up 1.1%. Perhaps a taste for luxury, once acquired, will prove hard to shake.
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Markets

S&P 500 2,191.95 0.87 0.04%
DJIA 19,170.42 -21.51 -0.11%
NASDAQ 5,255.65 4.55 0.09%
DAX 10,513.35 -20.70 -0.20%
HANG SENG 22,564.82 -313.41 -1.37%
NIKKEI 225 18,426.08 -87.04 -0.47%
USD (per EUR) 1.07 0.00 0.06%
USD (per CHF) 1.01 0.00 -0.01%
JPY (per USD) 113.48 -0.41 -0.36%
GBP (per USD) 1.27 0.01 1.16%

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