Asian Markets: Banking shares dive as Japan Airlines seeks debt relief

Stock markets in Asia were mixed today with the Nikkei Index falling 0.2 percent to close at 10,060 -- its first drop in six days. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index advanced 2 percent, ending the day at 21,886 and China's Shanghai Composite Index added 1.2 percent, rising to 2,971.

Japan Airlines Corp. (JALSY) slid 3.8 percent in Tokyo, taking banking shares with it on the news that, according to MarketWatch, it plans to ask for debt relief of $3.4 billion in loans, taking advantage of the government's rehabilitation plan, which includes loan waivers. Among the airline's lenders are state-owned Development Bank of Japan, Mizuho Financial Group (MFG), which plunged 4.8 percent, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MTU), which fell 3.2 percent, and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group (SMFJY), which tumbled 4.7 percent.

Financial companies were the worst-performing sector in Japan as investors worried that new government policies will force lenders to register more loan losses. Sumitomo Trust & Banking Co. (STBUF) plummeted 5.2 percent, while Shinsei Bank Ltd. (SKLKF) plunged 4.6 percent.

On the brighter side, Sofmap Co. surged 19 percent. The Tokyo-based computer equipment shop chain says it will be acquired by Bic Camera Inc. (BICMF), which in turn slipped 1.4 percent. Household product and personal care product maker Kao Corp. (KCRPY) gained 3.8 percent.

In China, news of surging property sales and a boom in new construction contracts drove shares in property development companies higher. China State Construction Engineering Corp. leaped to its 10 percent daily limit, Gemdale Corp. leaped 5.8 percent and China Merchants Property Development Co. Ltd. advanced 5.2 percent.

Other shares that soared to their 10 percent daily maximum included holding company China Hi-Tech Group and travel company Emei Shan Tourism Co.

In Hong Kong, gold producers advanced as gold hit $1,069 per ounce. Real Gold Mining soared 4.6 percent, while Zhaojin Mining Industry Co. Ltd. (ZHAOF) and Zijin Mining Group Co. Ltd. (ZIJMF) both climbed 2.2 percent.

Henderson Land Development Co. (HLDVF) added 2.2 percent with sources saying that the property development company has sold a duplex apartment in Hong Kong setting new record prices for real estate. The 6,158 square foot apartment sold for HK$439 million ($57 million), or HK$71,280 ($9,198) per square foot, according to Bloomberg. The property's web site proclaims, "Make it to the 'Who's Who' List, Make it to 39 Conduit Road," where the tower is located in Hong Kong's fashionable Mid-Levels. From there, residents can ride Hong Kong's famous escalators down the mountainside to their offices, which would no doubt be located in the city's business and financial district.

While this may put sea-view properties out of the reach of many, it's good news for Henderson Land investors.

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