Asian Markets Mixed, Japan PM Gets Vote of Confidence

Asian markets were mixed on Tuesday. In Japan the Nikkei 225 Index fell 0.2% to 9,602 and in Hong Kong the Hang Seng rose 0.1% to 22,003. China's Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.1% to end the day at 2,592.

Japan gave its prime minister a vote of confidence today, just days after his government made a move to weaken the yen, giving financial markets a boost. In a survey released today, Kan's approval rating rocketed up to 64%, 18 points higher than his score in August, according to Bloomberg.

While observers quip that he's looking more like a leader, it would be interesting to know how Kan's wife of 40 years would assess his performance. In a book called What on Earth Will Change in Japan After You Become Prime Minister released earlier this year, Mrs. Kan criticizes just about everything about him, from his cooking to the delivery of his first policy speech in parliament. In her book she asks, "I wonder: 'Is it okay that this man is prime minister?' -- because I know him well." Has he won her confidence yet?

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Today investors poured money into Japanese equities, but sent markets lower on later profit-taking and a slight strengthening of the yen. Consumer lenders led gains with Acom soaring 17%, Promise jumping 8.6% and Takefuji leaping 8.1%. The buying spree was spurred by news that claims for customer refunds of overcharged interest are on the decline. According to Bloomberg Takefuji alone saw a 35% drop in August claims, as compared with the same month last year.

Japanese car makers headed south with Toyota slumping 3.5%, Mazda losing 2.4%, Nissan sliding 0.7% and Honda slipping 0.5%. Among car parts makers Clarion, which makes audio systems, tumbled 3.2%, Jtekt fell 1.3% and Alps, an electronic parts manufacturer, dropped 1%.

Kyorin Holdings shot up 13% on a proposal from a generic drug maker to acquire its Kyorin Pharmaceutical, reports Japan Today. Sony lost 1.5% while industrial robot maker Fanuc scored a 3% gain.

Among Hong Kong real estate firms Cheung Kong spiked 2.3%, Sino Land climbed 2.3%, Sun Hung Kai gained 0.7% and Henderson Land advanced 0.5%. Wharf Holdings, a major player in the shopping mall business rallied 2.6% while others fell. China Resource Land slumped 1.7%, China Overseas lost 0.8% and Hang Lung declined 0.4%.

Cathay Pacific Airways sank 1.2% and its parent company, Swire Pacific, which also owns lots of Hong Kong property and runs the posh Pacific Place Mall, fell 1.5%.

In China, shares in airlines also headed lower, despite a forecast from the International Air Transport Association that global profits may reach $8.9 billion this year thanks to a much-hoped-for global recovery. But the Association also predicted earnings will fall to $5.3% next year since growth won't be sustainable. China Eastern Airlines tumbled 2.5%, Air China slumped 1.4% and China Southern Airlines dipped 0.8%.

Appliance makers rose today on hopes that the upcoming holidays will send Chinese shoppers out in droves. Suning Appliance jumped 3.1% and GD Midea, a maker of household appliances like rice cookers and blenders, and Gree Electric, a major air conditioner manufacturer, both surged 2%.