Electronics and Automakers Drag Nikkei Lower, Chinese Property Shares Tumble

Prius at Japan's Toyota Museum
Prius at Japan's Toyota Museum

In Asia Tuesday Japan's Nikkei 225 Index fell 0.5% to 11,282 and in China the Shanghai Composite Index remained virtually unchanged at 3,159. The Hong Kong Stock Exchange was closed today for the Ching Ming Festival, a time for honoring ancestors by caring for their grave sites and burning imitation paper money for the deceased to spend in the afterlife.

Japanese exporters fell as the yen strengthened against the dollar, making profits earned abroad less valuable once they're converted to yen back home. Camera makers lost value with Nikon dropping 1.6%, Canon sliding 1.4% and Olympus dipping 1.3%.

Among electronics makers, Sony plunged 2.5% and rival game maker Nintendo, which has recently announced it has the super-cool technology to enable users of upcoming portable consoles to see games in 3D without special glasses, slipped 0.9%. NEC, maker of electronics from cell phones to printers and circuit boards, tumbled 2.8%, Hitachi lost 2.7%, Toshiba dropped 2.4% and Alps Electric, which makes electronics for cars, slumped 2.1%.

Car companies closed lower, with Toyota posting a 1.1% fall. The U.S. Transportation Secretary has proposed that Toyota cough up $16.4 million in fines for hiding a defect in its cars. Despite all the negative PR, the Prius has remained the number one selling car in Japan for 11 months running. The company now plans to install brake override systems in all new models sold in China in order to prevent further problems with unexpected acceleration, reports Bloomberg. While that may help patch up the automaker's image, recalls are still mounting. Today nearly 13,000 cars were added to the recall tally as Toyota warned of more defective floor mats that can cause gas pedals to stick in certain models sold in South Korea. Other car makers also tumbled with Isuzu plunging 4.6%, Mazda spiraling down 2.5%, and Honda sliding 1.5%.

On a more positive note, shares in railroad companies surged in Japan today with West Japan Railway surging 3.9%, East Japan Railway rising 2.6% and Central Japan Railway advancing 2.4%.

In China, real estate companies tumbled on fears that the government will move to cool the property market with taxes and other restrictions. Poly Real Estate slumped 3.6%, Gemdale tumbled 3.3% and China Vanke slipped 1.7%.

Chongqing Gangjiu, a transportation and shipping company, was among the best performers in Shanghai, surging to its 10% daily limit. Major shipping company COSCO rose 0.9% and China Shipping Development, which transports cargo and crude oil, advanced 0.7%.

Chinese miners were also up today with Yanzhou Coal Mining climbing 4%, Jiangxi Copper advancing 1.3% and Baoshan Iron & Steel adding 0.5%. Gold miner Shandong Gold Mining rose 1.5% on increasing profits, which are only expected to go higher as demand for the precious metal increases along with individual wealth.