The biggest gains in the Asian markets were scored in Japan where the Nikkei moved up 2 percent today to close at 10,513, posting its largest one-day rise in two weeks. There were increases across the board, with bank stocks climbing in reaction to a general feeling that the economy is truly on the road to recovery and that profits will rebound in 2010.
Winners included Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc., which climbed 4.4 percent, and Mizuho Financial Group Inc., which gained 2 percent. According to Bloomberg, Mizuho was the most actively traded company, and wins today's prize as short-sellers' most popular stock.
In other sectors, Kirin Holdings rose 1.2 percent. The beer maker is in talks to merge with rival Suntory, which in turn plans to buy Orangina from private equity giant Blackstone Group. If the plan goes through, Kirin and Suntory will together command about 50 percent of Japan's beer market and 40 percent of the wine market.
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng rose 1.1 percent to close at 21,070. Yurun, China's biggest pork supplier, jumped 7.4 percent after Macquarie Group yesterday boosted the company's rating from neutral to buy. Yurun's chairman told China Daily it was targeting a 30 percent gain in sales this year. Clothing and toy supplier Li & Fung, Ltd. jumped 5 percent. Today on Bloomberg Television, the company's president, Bruce Rockowitz said that his company is seeing "pretty strong" re-orders from U.S. companies.
Airline stocks were also on the rise, with China Southern Airlines Co. climbing 4.4 percent. The company's passenger numbers soared 33 percent last month as the total number of travelers reached 6.5 million. The company has announced plans to add 35 planes to its existing fleet this year and is predicting that air travel will reach its 2007 levels during 2009. Air China rose 0.6 percent and Cathay Pacific added 1.0 percent.
In China stocks fell, breaking a seven-day winning streak. The Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.7 percent to close at 2,925. Carmakers and commodity producers led the slide, with SAIC Motor Corp, China's largest automaker, dropping 4.2 percent and Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Co losing 3.5 percent after steadily gaining for the past five days.
Chinese-listed commodity producers also fared badly, with Zhongjin Gold Corp. slumping 3.4 percent, despite gold's massive gains this week. Zijin Mining Group Co. tumbled 2.6 percent and Jiangxi Copper fell 1.6 percent. Wuliangye Yibin Co., a producer of traditional Chinese liquor, dropped 3.2 percent -- suffering a second day of losses on news that it is under investigation by the securities regulator.
The company's executives could, no doubt, do with a stiff drink.