Mongolian Freeze Benefits Chinese Energy Shares, Japanese in a Buying Mood

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Most markets in Asia rose Friday. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 1% to 20,609 and Japan's Nikkei 225 Index added 0.2% to close at 10,126. The Shanghai Composite Index slipped 0.3% to 3,052.

In Hong Kong, energy companies rose today as temperatures in Mongolia fell as low as -45 C (-49 F) and heavy snows blanketed much of northern China. Shares in gas and power companies advanced with China Shenhua Energy, which provides coal power, and Hong Kong and China Gas both rising 1.5%. China Resource Power added 0.8% and oil company Cnooc, gained 1.2%.

In Mongolia, the UN has stepped in to help, bringing food aid to both the people and animals of the area. According to the BBC, the weather has been responsible for the death of more than a million livestock -- a disaster in a land where the mostly nomadic population depends on their livestock, living side by side with the animals.

In an interview on BBC radio this morning, David Hadrill of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization described a bleak scene where the carcasses of yaks, cattle, sheep, horses and other animals lay strewn outside traditional homes called yurts. "It's like one giant deep freeze," he said, explaining that in severe cold temperatures the bodies don't rot and are scavenged by dogs. Hadrill called the situation a "tragedy," noting that lambing season is fast approaching.

In other sectors, Hong Kong-listed China Unicom surged 7.6%. The company, which started as a government-owned wireless paging company, has become the world's third biggest mobile provider and now provides 3G service. China Telecom, a phone and internet provider, rose 3.3%.
Deutsche Bank raised its recommendation on the company to "buy" today.

In China car makers rose: Jianghuai Automobile surged 4.1%, FAW Car climbed 3.4% and auto manufacturing giant SAIC Motor gained 2.5%. Perhaps investors are betting that Japan's Toyota troubles could create a spike in demand for Chinese-made cars.

Chinese resource companies lost value today, as did the London Metal Exchange Index, which fell 2.2%. Jiangxi Copper declined 1.8%, zinc refiner Zhuzhou Smelter Group dropped 2.1% and Aluminum Corp. of China, or Chalco, lost 1.3%.

In Japan, retail stocks advanced despite a report that consumer prices fell yet again in January, marking the 11th straight month it has dropped. Prices for goods have fallen 1.3% since last year, according to Bloomberg. Shares in UNY, which sells everything from super-cool Japanese sneakers to chopsticks in both Tokyo and Hong Kong, rose 1.3%, and Seven and I, owner of 7-Eleven shops, gained 1.7%. Department store and supermarket operator Aeon surged 2.9% after the Trade Ministry took
analysts by surprise, reporting an increase in retail sales. All these figures just might put Asian investors in a spending mood over the weekend, sending retail sales numbers even higher.



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