China Market Bucks the Downward Trend, Prius Trouble Drags Toyota Lower

Asian markets closed higher today. China's Shanghai Composite Index climbed 2.4% to close at 3,004 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 2.2% to 20,722. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 Index added 0.3% to end the day at 10,404.Financial companies and commodity producers led the gains in China as investors hunted for bargains in the wake of tremendous losses over the past few days. Some gambled that recent chatter that the Shanghai Composite would hold the title of the world's worst-performing index was overstated, according to Bloomberg, which reported that some analysts saw this correction as an opportunity to invest in China.

Industrial & Commercial Bank of China surged 2.5%, China Construction Bank and China Merchant's bank both rose 2.3% and Bank of China added 2.2%. Insurers also rose with Ping An Insurance climbing 5% and China Life Insurance gaining 3.1%.

Among commodity producers, Datong Coal Industry surged 8.5%, Jiangxi Copper leaped 6%, Maanshan Iron & Steel rose 2.6% and Baoshan Iron & Steel gained 2.1%. Chinese energy companies also surged today with China Coal Energy rising 5.4% and China Shenhua Energy gaining 4.6%. Yunnan Luoping Zinc & Electricity, which mines zinc and provides electricity, rose 3.3%.

In Hong Kong, clothing manufacturer Esprit Holdings jumped 7.9% after a 9.4% surge in retail sales that sent earnings over and above estimates. Esprit is reportedly expanding Asian operations after suffering a slump in sales in Germany, which Bloomberg reports earns the company about 45% of its sales. Esprit has agreed to purchase a large stake in China Resources Enterprise, through which they will presumably expand their Asian operations. Esprit is already popular in Hong Kong where it has numerous large stores located in popular upscale malls like Pacific Place. It is particularly popular with expats as it is known to carry shapes and sizes that fit western body types.

Cnooc, the Hong Kong-listed Chinese oil exploration company, rocketed up 9.4% in today's trading after announcing plans to boost output and the amount they hold in reserve by acquiring companies and joining forces with overseas ventures, according to The Wall Street Journal.

In Tokyo, Toyota Motors plunged 3.8% on continued concern over its major recall of cars with faulty accelerator mechanisms. This more than ate up yesterday's modest gains. The company's woes were compounded by new reports that it is investigating complaints coming out of both the U.S. and Japan that its popular Prius hybrid could be having brake problems according to the Associated Press. Could this be another huge blow to the one-time industry darling's PR troubles?

Meanwhile, Honda rose 2.3%, lapping up business in the wake of Toyota's crisis. Mazda Motors climbed 2.5%, Isuzu Motors advanced 2.4% and Nissan Motors gained 1.2%. Where there are losers, there are also winners.

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