Surge in U.S. Shopping Sends Asian Shares Higher

In Asia Thursday Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 1% to 20,051 and Japan's Nikkei 225 Index surged 2.8% to 9,536. In China the Shanghai Composite Index inched down 0.2% to end the session at 2,415.

Higher-than-expected retail sales figures in the U.S. jump-started markets in Asia today. "Retail sales data on Wednesday showed the strongest pace of growth in four years," wrote the New York Times, making Asian investors hopeful this will renew American shopper's demand for foreign-made cars, stereos, kitchen equipment and phones. Markets were also sparked by today's report from the International Monetary Fund forecasting global growth of 4.6%, up 0.4% from its previous assessment.

In Hong Kong, clothing suppliers and producers climbed. Li & Fung, which provides mountains of Asian made goods to Target and Walmart, surged 1.9%, while Esprit advanced 3.2%. Sports shoe maker Yue Yuen rose 1.2%.

Hong Kong banks also got a boost today with Standard Chartered leaping 4.5% and HSBC jumping 2.5%. Bank of East Asia and Bank of China both advanced 0.7% and Industrial & Commercial Bank of China added 0.5%.

According to the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines, Asian carriers are expected to return to profitability soon, Bloomberg reported. After losses totaling $11 billion over the past two years, this is welcome news. Today Hong Kong-listed airlines surged with China Southern Airlines rallying 4%, and Air China and China Eastern Airlines both gaining 1.9%. In Tokyo, All Nippon Airways shot up 4.6%.

In Japan, the retail data showing U.S. consumers have been reinvigorated sent shares in electronic parts manufacturers soaring. Advantest, which makes memory chip testers, rocketed up 6%. Sumco, a silicon wafer company, and Tokyo Electron both surged 5.2% and Kyocera, a maker of components from liquid crystal displays to image sensors, surged 4.4%.

Among camera companies Olympus climbed 5.4%, Nikon was up 4.1% and Konica Minolta gained 3%. Consumer electronics companies got a major boost with Sony and Casio Computer both zooming up 4.4%, Panasonic advancing 4.7% and Sharp rising 3.3%. Industrial robot maker Fanuc, continued its climb, adding 4.1% to its value today.

In China, a new tax on resources of around 5% took a toll on commodity shares. The tax will eat into profits for these companies and their investors. Today Shandong Jinling Mining fell 2.4%, Hebei Iron & Steel dropped 0.8% and Maanshan Iron & Steel and Baoshan Iron & Steel both dipped 0.3%.

Industrial machinery maker China Erzhong Group Deyang Heavy Equipment tumbled 2.9% and China First Heavy Industries sank 1.3%, while Anhui Heli gained 6%.

Among China's top performers today, Tianjin Realty Development surged, hitting the 10% daily limit after saying its profits in the first half of the year doubled. Other Chinese developers also rose with Gemdale rising 1% and Poly Real Estate advancing 0.8%. Despite all the chatter about bubbles, the Chinese appetite for property remains high.