Asian Markets Sink, Wal-Mart Deal Good News for Li & Fung

Shares in Asia closed lower Friday. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 Index lost 2.1%, ending the week at 10,198. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index fell 1.2% to 20,122 and in China, the Shanghai Composite Index shed 0.2% ending the day at 2,989.

More good economic news out of Japan did not translate into gains for Japanese investors today. Just as the government reported that the country's unemployment rate registered a small improvement and factory output had increased 2.2% since last month, shares in blue chip companies lost value. Even a reported increase in domestic household spending and an upswing in export numbers didn't boost the share price of companies selling consumer electronics. Sad figures for sales and earnings in 2009 dragged most stocks lower.

Japanese camera makers Olympus and Canon both sank 3.1%, while video game industry giant Nintendo, maker of the popular Wii console, plunged 4.1%. Sony, which makes the competing Playstation 3 lost 2.1%. Even Advantest, which makes memory chip testers, posted an enormous loss of 10.2% after releasing a forecast predicting a yearly loss.

In China, Jiangling Motors fell 0.8%. The company, which has partnered with Ford, is halting production of one of its vehicles that's built with the same accelerator assembly as the Toyota cars now being recalled, according to AFP. Toyota is recalling 75,000 vehicles in China. Meanwhile, SAIC Motor dropped 2.3%. The Company, GM's Chinese partner, sold more than 1 million units in 2009.

In Hong Kong, clothing and toy manufacturer Li & Fung (LFUGF) skyrocketed 10.2% after announcing a deal with Walmart that could generate another $2 billion for the manufacturing giant in the first year, according to Bloomberg. Li & Fung already supplies merchandise to the superstore as well as Kohl's and other outlets, but this deal would ensure that even more of the clothing worn in the U.S. was made somewhere in Asia. Bruce Rockowitz, Li & Fung's President, is a well-known name on the Hong Kong social circuit. He runs Pure Group, the operator of stylish fitness and yoga clubs as well as the trendy Red and Red Soho restaurants, and he's had a lengthy engagement to pop star CoCo Lee. Lee, nicknamed the "Mariah Carey of Asia," performed "A Love Before Time" for the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and has recorded a number of hits in Chinese and English. Last year she made it to number 15 on E! Entertainment's list of the world's 25 sexiest pop divas.

But gains by Rockowitz's firm were not enough to reverse the downward trajectory of the Hang Seng. SouthGobi Energy Resources, a Canada-based coal mining company with operations in Mongolia, flopped in today's debut, losing as much as 16% during the day, until ending the session down 11.1%. Shoe company Yue Yuen Industrial dropped 3.2% and shares in China Cosco, which operates the ships and containers that transport the shoes and other merchandise out to the rest of the world, suffered a 3.5% slide.
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