Asia Markets Today: MTR Shares Climb, JAL Continues Plunge

In Asia Monday, the Shanghai Composite Index added 0.4%, ending the day at 3,237. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 Index fell 1.2%, to 10,855 and in Hong Kong the Hang Seng shed 0.9% to close at 21,460.

Hong Kong's MTR Corp. rose 2.1% after the territory's government approved an $8.6 billion project to build a high-speed train connecting Hong Kong to China and its booming economy. With a completion date slated for 2015, the new link would cut the journey time from Hong Kong to Guangzhou in half, with travelers arriving in 48 minutes.

The new route would begin from a planned terminal in Hong Kong's West Kowloon district, located across Victoria Harbor from Hong Kong Island. Over the weekend, hundreds of protesters demonstrated against the project, with China Daily reporting that riot police had to be called in when the scene turned violent. Some activists claim that the project will guarantee the destruction of many small villages in the Kowloon area, and that the highly congested West Kowloon location is difficult to reach and won't be able to cope with the extra traffic.

On his Facebook page, Alan Leong Kah-Kit,a member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council representing Kowloon East calls the project, "The 65.2bln destruction of West Kowloon." He writes, "West Kowloon is the wrong location." While he approves of a high-speed connection to the Mainland, he says, "The bad news is that Government is pursuing the wrong location for the station." Indeed, it's unlikely that tourists will bring business to the grotty area, preferring to make their way towards the swankier parts of town, heading across the harbor to Central or directly to Hong Kong's clean and efficient airport.

Declining shares in Hong Kong included HSBC, the most heavily weighted stock on the exchange, which fell 1.6%, and China Mobile, which lost 2.5%.

In China, shares in transportation-related companies also gained. Shanghai Shentong Metro, which runs the city's subways, surged to the 10% daily limit and Guangshen Railway rose 1.7%. Daqin Railway, which operates China's largest coal transport network, gained 2.8%.

Chinese airlines took off today: China Eastern Airlines jumped 5.1% with Bloomberg reporting that the carrier may have made a profit last year, and Air China leaped 4.6%.

Japan Airlines plunged to a record low of 5 yen, losing 29% of its value today. Delta Air Lines is still seeking a partnership with the ailing Japanese carrier, despite its looming bankruptcy. According to Bloomberg, the costs to Delta would be minimal as it probably won't invest in JAL, but will simply pay the fees incurred by the switch from its alliance with American Airlines. Delta hopes to benefit from the many Asian routes JAL covers, betting that connections to Asian destinations are the key to prosperity.

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