Nikkei Rises on Possible Easing Measures, Asian Markets Mixed

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Asian markets were mixed Friday. In Japan the Nikkei 225 Index gained 1% to 8,991 and in Hong Kong the Hang Seng inched down 0.1% to 20,597. China's Shanghai Composite Index added 0.3% to close at 2,611.

The Japanese government today applied pressure on the Bank of Japan to take measures to help spark the economy. With the yen at a 15-year high, Prime Minister Naoto Kan's government is anxious to stop the surge in the currency, which is hampering an economic recovery. Japan's Finance Minister is calling for action, saying that Japan's currency situation is "severe," reports Bloomberg Businessweek. The emergence of a democratic challenger to Kan in the upcoming election should make the current government even more determined to improve the financial situation.

A dip in the value of the yen sent shares in Japanese exporters higher. Sony, which makes as much as 70% of its income abroad, ended the day up 2.7% and Casio Computer surged 2.3%. Fuji Electric, a vending machine and factory equipment maker, jumped 3%.

Carmakers benefited from the weakening of the yen and the murmurs about easing measures. Isuzu motored up 3.6%, Nissan surged 3.2%, Honda rose 1.6%, Mazda advanced 1.1% and Toyota added 0.4%. Motorcycle-making giant Suzuki ramped up 3.1%. Alps Electric, which makes electronic systems for cars, leaped 2.6% and Clarion, a maker of car audio systems, gained 1.3%.

In China, pharmaceutical companies helped push the index higher. Tibet Rhodiola Pharmaceutical climbed 4.6% and China National Medicines jumped 3.9%. Huadong Medicine, an antibiotic maker, rose 1.2% and Shandong Dong-E E-Jiao-A, a traditional Chinese medicine company that specializes in making blood remedies from donkey skin, advanced 0.7%.

Chinese companies trading in agricultural products also rose, with Yuan Longping High-Tech Agriculture rocketing up 6.6%. Yuan Longping grows and sells crops like rice and eggplant, and is also involved in the development of crop seeds and agricultural chemicals. Beijing Shunxin Agriculture reaped a 2.7% gain and Heilongjiang Agriculture surged 2.4%.

In Hong Kong, China Green, which grows fruits and vegetables, slumped 36.9%. According to Bloomberg, the company delayed a board meeting saying their auditor needed more time before annual results could be reported. This sent shivers through China Green investors, who pulled money out of the company, which is headquartered in Eastern China. China Resources Enterprise, also involved in the food business, tumbled 2.7%.

Hong Kong property developers also helped drive the index lower. Hang Lung tumbled 2.6%. Henderson Land lost 1.6%, Sino Land lost 0.9% and China Overseas declined 1.2%.

Ports Design, which makes clothes under the name Port International, sank 10.1%. The company, which runs the Giorgio Armani and Versace outlets on the Mainland, closed 10 outlets in china and opened 33 shops in the first half of the year. But that wasn't good enough for Mirae Asset Securities, which cut the stock's rating, reports Bloomberg. Li & Fung dipped 0.3%.

Car companies offset some of the losses. Brilliance China Automotive soared 6.1% after returning to profitability, in part through the sale of a flailing division, according to Gasgoo.com. Dongfeng Motor rose 1.4% and Warren Buffett-backed BYD Co. advanced 0.6%. With Americans hesitating to make big purchases, the China market may be Asia's best bet.
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