Mid-Autumn Festival Boosts Retail Stocks in Hong Kong


In Asia Wednesday Japan's Nikkei 225 Index slid 0.4% to 9,566 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.2% to close at 22,048. Markets in Shanghai were closed in celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival.

In Japan Prime Minister Naoto Kan says his government is ready to intervene in the currency market again if necessary. His recent action to weaken the currency by buying billions of U.S dollars and selling yen had the immediate desired effect, but the value of the yen is now creeping back up, today hitting its highest point since the Sept. 15 intervention and putting traders on guard for the possibility of another dramatic move.

Japanese exporters lost value, including car makers that depend on favorable exchange rates when they bring their hard-earned money back home. Mazda plummeted 2%, Fuji Heavy Industries, the maker of Subaru vehicles, sank 1.8%, Honda and Isuzu both tumbled 1.6%, Nissan lost 1.5% and Toyota declined 1%.

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Electronics companies were the biggest drag on the index with Sony plunging 1.9%, Pioneer falling 1.4%, and Casio Computer losing 1.3%. Among camera makers Olympus retreated 1.4%, Nikon slumped 1.3% and Canon sank 1.2%. Gainers in this sector included Panasonic, which shot up 2.4% after announcing it won't be issuing new shares to fund the acquisition of Sanyo and Panasonic Electric Works, reports Reuters. Sharp also rose, adding 1.3%.

It was good news in the property sector for developers Mitsui Fudosan and Sumitomo Realty & Development, both of which rose 1.7%. Mitsubishi Estate advanced 1.4% and Tokyu Land added 0.9%. While land prices are still falling in Japan, the pace of the decline is slowing for the first time in three years, according to Bloomberg.

In Hong Kong developers were on the rise with Henderson Land soaring 2.6%, Cheung Kong climbing 2.3%, Sino Land rising 2% and New World Development advancing 1.5%. Wharf catapulted up 2.1% and Swire gained 1.7% -- both companies operate retail malls that are sure to be packed with shoppers during this week's Mid-Autumn Festival. Wharf's Times Square shopping center is just near Victoria Park, now dotted with crowd-drawing lantern-themed exhibitions and installations in celebration of the Mid-Autumn Lantern Carnival.

Retailers performed well in Hong Kong today as investors placed their money on shoppers opening their wallets over the holidays. China Dongxang Group, a sportswear company, shot up 5%, Joyce Boutique Holdings, the operator of high-end boutiques selling pricey clothes, perfumes, the latest lipsticks and other luxury items, racked up a 2.6% gain and Belle International, maker of the ubiquitous Joy & Peace shoes, advanced 0.8%.

Losing sectors in Hong Kong today included China Unicom, which slid 3.3% and Tencent, which declined 1.4%. Perhaps these big holidays are enough to tear folks away from their computers and head out with friends and family instead.