Japanese Wages Rise Along with Toyota Shares, Chinese Wind Companies Gain


Major markets in Asia were mixed Wednesday. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 Index inched up 0.3% to 10,253, and in China the Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.8% to 3,097. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index slipped 0.1% to end the day at 20,877.

Things may be looking brighter in Japan where the Labor Ministry had some positive news: Wages have increased for the first time in 20 months, creeping up 0.1% from a year earlier. Payrolls were also up, with employers increasing overtime hours by 6.5% as compared with last month. But locals say the economy still feels very slow and despite a reported drop in the unemployment rate this month, labor courts are busy with newly unemployed filing unfair dismissal charges
after the massive layoffs over the last year.

Fast Retailing, owner of Uniqlo, which may be on its way to becoming the Asian answer to Gap, rose 4.7%, but department store owner UNY dropped 1.6% and Takashimaya slipped 0.6% -- so maybe not everyone is running out to spend their newly increased wages.

Toyota, meanwhile advanced 3.2% in today's trading. While sales may be down about 50% from their high three years ago, according to CNBC, and dropped 8.7% in February alone, sales of the Prius have actually increased 10%, according to hybridcars.com, despite all the negative press the company has received. Shares of some other Japanese companies were also up with Suzuki rising 1.4% and Honda adding 0.5%.

Nissan, however, sank 0.4% after announcing a recall of about 540,000 cars with faulty brakes. Meanwhile, auto parts maker Jtekt, the maker of many Toyota parts, has been slammed again -- this time as the maker of faulty power-steering parts for the now recalled General Motors cars, according to Business Week.

Japanese drug companies suffered today as Merck (MRK) announced it would begin selling generic drugs in Japan. Competitor Daiichi Sankyo fell 3.3% and Sawai Pharmaceutical lost 3%.

Chinese alternative energy companies companies soared today. Shanghai Electric Group, which makes wind power equipment, surged to the 10% daily limit and Jiangsu Sunshine Co., which makes super powerful solar cells for solar equipment, also soared 10%. Hong Kong-listed China High Speed Transmission Equipment Group, which makes gears for wind turbines, rose 8.7%.

A group of Chinese and American companies are on track to build a 600-megawatt wind farm in West Texas, and many are predicting that wind turbines will become increasingly more popular over the next few years, perhaps securing more contracts in the U.S.

In Hong Kong, property developers focusing on Chinese projects closed lower amid speculation that capping property prices will be under discussion at a conference beginning today in Beijing. Sino Land plumetted 2.9%, Evergrande dropped 0.9% and China Resources Land fell 0.5%. Henderson Land closed down 2.1% and Cheung Kong slipped 0.8%. After years of incredible growth, the last thing China wants on its hands is the effects of a bursting real estate bubble.