Asian markets: Automakers lose, banks gain

In Tokyo Friday the Nikkei dropped 0.7 percent to close at 10,444. Automakers were among the worst-performing stocks, with Isuzu Motors falling 3.4 percent and Mazda Motor Corp. dropping 2.5 percent. Honda Motor Co. Ltd. slipped 2.1 percent and its chief rival, Toyota Motor Corp., lost 1.8 percent.

Japanese steelmakers also hit the skids in reaction to a recent announcement that the country's incoming government plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions. This will undoubtedly raise production costs for the industry. Nippon Steel Corp., the world's second-largest producer, fell 2.2 percent and Daido Steel Co. lost 2.7 percent.

In related industries, Haseko Corp., which builds condominiums, plunged 22.3 percent after announcing that it will sell convertible bonds to raise money. On this news Credit Suisse downgraded the builder's stock to neutral.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng rose 0.4 percent to close at 21,161 -- its highest level in the last 12 months. Oil producer Cnooc Ltd. gained 2.2 percent while Hong Kong-listed shares of PetroChina Co. Ltd. rose 1.4 percent. PetroChina is China's largest oil producer.

Banking stocks were also on the rise, with Bank of Communications Co. posting gains of 1.8 percent; Standard Chartered PLC picked up 1.2 percent and HSBC Holdings PLC rose 0.8 percent.

In China, the Shanghai Composite Index gained 2.2 percent to close at 2990. It was bolstered by yesterday's comments by Premier Wen Jiabao confirming government commitment to keeping up current levels of fiscal and monetary measures until a financial recovery is assured. "China's economic rebound is unstable, unbalanced and not yet solid," he said "We cannot and will not change the direction of our policies when the conditions aren't appropriate."

Winners in China included a 9.1 percent jump in Shanghai Pudong Development Bank Co., which is the Chinese partner of Citigroup Inc., and a 6.6 percent rise in shares of Industrial Bank Co, which is part-owned by HSBC Holdings Plc.

Real estate companies were also on the move, with Poly Real Estate Group Co. jumping 3.7 percent on positive reports that Chinese industrial production and investment growth have accelerated. China's largest listed property developer China Vanke Co. also rose 2.2 percent, as Asia wrapped up another fine week for stock investors.

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