Asian Markets Spike as Trader Lunch Hours are Under Fire


Japan's Nikkei 225 Index climbed 2.9% to 9,626 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 1.4% to 24,877. In China the Shanghai Composite Index also advanced 1.4% to 3,129.

Japanese officials are considering extending trading hours at the Tokyo Stock Exchange, where traders currently enjoy a 90-minute lunch break, during which trading pauses. According to Japan Today, regulators are hoping that a longer work day will attract investors. So far this year, the Nikkei 225 Index has fallen by 8.7%, the steepest drop among the world's 15 largest markets, and that's including this week's heady gains.

While some believe the measure will bring Japan onto a more equal footing with markets in places like London and New York that already have longer trading hours, others feel it will prevent traders from doing any business face-to-face and will leave them with little down time to contemplate their strategies, while failing to attract new investors. "It's bad for our health if the market is moving while we eat our lunch," a general manager from Tachibana Securities told Bloomberg. Meanwhile, some feel this move points to Japan's desperation to get its economy moving any way it can. "This ostensibly simple move is a sign that things are getting increasingly desperate," commented Beelzebub, a Japan Today reader.

In Tokyo car companies built on yesterday's advances, with Nissan jumping 6% after boosting its annual net income forecast by 80%. Honda followed close behind, leaping 4% and Toyota gained 1.9%.

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Commodity traders made big strides with Mitsui & Co. rising 4.4% and Mitsubishi Corp. gaining 3%, and the raw materials they trade also surged. Sumitomo Metal Mining zipped up 6.1%, JX Holdings, a firm dealing in mining, oil and electronic materials surged 2.7% and oil explorer Inpex rose 2.3%.

In Hong Kong, where shortening the exchange's two-hour lunch break is also under discussion, petroleum companies advanced on a rise in the price of oil. Cnooc rocketed up 4%, and PetroChina gained 2.7%. China Shenhua, which provides coal power, saw a 2.4% increase.

Among property companies expected to experience a further hike in values due to the new U.S. stimulus package, Hang Lung suffered a 6.5% plunge after putting 294 million shares up for sale at a 7% discount in order to raise funds to expand further in China, reports Bloomberg. Other developers continued to rise with Country Garden surging 6.6%, New World Development spiking 3.7%, Sino Land soaring 2.8% and Henderson Land climbing 1.7%. Wharf Holdings shot up 4.5% and Swire Pacific added 1.8%.

Mining companies made headway today after the London Metal Exchange Index added 3.1% yesterday as investors piled money into commodities as a hedge. In Hong Kong Jiangxi Copper climbed 5.2%, Zijin Mining rose 4.3% and Aluminum Corp. of China advanced 3.6%.

In China commodities also rallied with Zijin Mining rising 4.5%, Shandong Gold Mining climbing 4% and China Coal Energy up 0.9%.

Chinese property shares also got a boost with Nanjing Xingang High-Tech, a firm specializing in building infrastructure and land development hit the 10% daily limit, Poly Real Estate gained 1.7%, Gemdale added 0.6% and China Vanke edged up 0.5%. Property shares continue to head sky high despite severe measures to curb prices, and Asian policy makers are now accusing Ben Bernanke of pumping money into the U.S. economy at great cost to developing markets around the world.