JAL Heads Toward Bankruptcy and China Becomes World's No.1 Car Market

Shares in Asia climbed Monday with the Nikkei 225 Index rising 1.1% to 10,798. In China the Shanghai Composite Index was up 0.5%, closing at 3,213, and in Hong Kong the Hang Seng Index rose 0.5%, ending the day at 22,412.Japan Airlines (JALSY) plunged 11.8% today in Tokyo as investors took in the news that the beleaguered airline may soon become one of the country's largest bankruptcy cases. The company has been bailed out three times in the last decade, but Japan's new government, which campaigned to reduce wasteful government spending, may not be as willing to supply the funds to rescue the carrier. JAL has $16 billion in liabilities.

%%DynaPub-Enhancement class="enhancement contentType-HTML Content fragmentId-1 payloadId-61603 alignment-right size-small"%% Delta Air Lines and American Airlines have both offered to invest in JAL, and Bloomberg reports that both have said that they wouldn't be deterred by a bankruptcy filing. Both airlines are seeking access to JAL's many valuable routes in Asia.

Japanese engineering companies involved in the design and building of the Dubai Metro system spiked again today. Kajima Corp closed up 6.8% and Obayashi Corp climbed 6.6%. Both companies are part of a consortium that announced plans to "slow the pace of the construction" as a result of a delay in payment from the Dubai government. Dubaimetro.eu reported today that "Dubai authorities said the project was on track and they were committed to meeting financial obligations on the project."

China's big news is that it has surpassed the U.S. as the world's number one auto market. According to Bloomberg, Chinese sales for 2009 surged 46%, placing it in first place in terms of sales. But now the government may tighten up on new loans and government incentives, putting a damper on the Chinese shopping spree that has helped spur economic recovery, and today, shares in Chinese-listed car companies sank. FAW Car Co. dropped 4.1% and SAIC, the country's largest automaker slumped 2.4%.

In Hong Kong, many car companies were also down, with Warren Buffett-backed BYD Co. bucking the trend and rising 3% as it plans to begin mass production of its new minibus, according to Tradingmarkets.com. Great Wall Motor surged 5.9% today. The company, which makes SUVs and pick up trucks, unveiled its new Hover H7at the Shanghai Auto Show this past April. The Hover H7 is a high-end luxury SUV sure to appeal to China's nouveau rich.

Shares that performed well in Hong Kong today included Aluminum Corp of China, affectionately known as Chalco, which soared 7.2% and brokerage firm China Everbright, which hit its 10% daily limit. Hong Kong-listed shipping firms climbed higher with Orient Overseas surging 11%, in reaction to December's 17.7% jump in Chinese exports. Exactly the kind of action that will keep the dragon roaring and Asian investors happy.
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