Nikkei Continues to Rise on Positive Earnings and Hope for the U.S.

In Asia Tuesday Japan's Nikkei 225 Index added 0.4% to close at 10,636 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng slid 0.3% to end the day at 23,484. Markets in China remained closed for Chinese New Year.

Positive earnings outlooks among some of Japan's major companies continued to boost investor sentiment. This is the week when eagerly awaited earnings statements and predictions are released, and shares are bought and sold accordingly. So far, things are looking good.

Progress in the U.S. economy is also helping the markets. Today the Washington Post reported that Obama is challenging business leaders to hire more American workers and stop stockpiling cash. "It is investments made now that will pay off as the economy rebounds," Obama told the Post. "And as you hire, you know that more Americans working means more sales, greater demand and higher profits for your companies." The message seems to have been heard in Japan, where one money manager at Tokyo's Ichiyoshi Investment Management told Bloomberg, "Stocks will likely continue to rise since U.S. business sentiment is improving steadily."

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Nippon Meat Packers was among the companies that rose today on positive earnings. Shares in the ham and sausage company rallied 6.6% after reporting a 15% hike in net income over the past nine months and raising its full-year net income forecast to $170 million. Horiba, which makes medical instruments and scientific measuring equipment, surged 6.7% and Fujikura, a cable maker, climbed 7.7%.

KDDI Corp. shot up 5.8% after scoring an "outperform" rating from Credit Suisse. Other electronics firms also gained with Panasonic Electric jumping 2.1%, Pioneer climbing 1.3% and Casio Computer advancing 0.9%. Ricoh, the office equipment maker, and Sony both added 0.6%.

Banks headed north with Mizuho Financial Group leaping 3.1%, Sumitomo Mitsui climbing 2.3% and Mitsubishi UFJ rising 2%.

There were big losses as well. CSK, the IT consulting company company that also sells and leases computers, plunged 10.2%, Softbank, an Internet and telecom company, lost 1% and Mitsubishi Paper Mills gave up 3.7%.

Strict Controls Cool Hong Kong Property Market

In Hong Kong, Xingye Copper International suffered a steep 17% loss on expectations of a plunge in profits for last year. The company makes copper plates used in electronic appliance and automotive parts.

Real estate companies continued to drag the Hang Seng down this week. Strict controls have been introduced to cool the property market, and more may be on the way. Today Cheung Kong plummeted 3.1%, Sun Hung Kai fell 2.2% and Henderson Land slumped 2.1%. There were also big losses for New World Development, which slid 2% and Hang Lung, which dipped 1.9%.

Swire, which has a diverse portfolio of businesses ranging from airlines and Coca Cola bottling plants to operating one of Hong Kong's swishest malls, fell 2.3% and Wharf, which still controls a variety of businesses along Hong Kong's shores, including the Star Ferry and the Harbour City mall, dived 2.3%.

While China Unicom, a China-based Internet company surged 4.7%, Tencent, the instant messaging success story, plunged 4.6%. Better luck tomorrow when Chinese traders return from their Lunar New Year holidays.