Shares in Asia climbed sharply higher Wednesday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index surged 2.7% to close at 10,307 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index closed at 20,534, gaining 1.3% on its first day of trading after the Chinese New Year holiday.In Japan, shares of Toshiba Corp. surged 6.3% after President Obama told an audience in suburban Maryland that he endorsed nuclear power and has earmarked $8.3 billion for the construction of two nuclear power plants. If approved, the contract would go to Southern Co. and its partners, which would build reactors designed by Westinghouse, a unit of Japanese company Toshiba -- the company that helped build the first nuclear power plants in America.
According to The New York Times, there are now 104 nuclear reactors in the U.S., but a new plant has not been constructed since 1973. Japan, a country with extremely limited local energy resources, operates 55 nuclear reactors, has two more under construction, and even more in the planning stages.
Other nuclear-related Japanese companies also rose today. Kimura Chemical Plants, which makes equipment for nuclear plants, surged 8.3%, Japan Steel Works, which makes pressure vessels for reactors, spiked 6% and Okano Valve Manufacturing rose 2.1%.
In the Japanese fashion world, Taka-Q, a Japanese menswear company, surged 21% after revising its income forecasts upwards. The company operates shops throughout Japan and sells its own line of extremely colorful shoes for men and women in its Around the Shoes stores. Fast Retailing, which operates the successful Uniqlo shops, gained 3.6% in today's trading. High-end Takashimaya, with department stores in New York and Tokyo, rose 3%, while the operator of the more utilitarian department stores in Japan and Hong Kong, UNY Co., added 2.1%.
Japan Communications skyrocketed 19% after making a deal with Motorola to include its SIM cards in its mobile phones, and electronic component and DVD maker Taiyo Yuden surged 7.2%. TDK rose a very respectable 5%.
In Hong Kong, banking shares closed higher today. Industrial & Commercial Bank of China surged 2.2%, Bank of China gained 1.8% China Construction Bank added 0.7% and Bank of Communications rose 1.4%. HSBC advanced 1.9%.
Most Hong Kong property developers also headed north today: Both Henderson Land and New World Development rose 1.7%, Sino Land gained 1.5% and China Overseas climbed 1.3%. Sun Hung Kai lost 0.2%.
Li & Fung, a major supplier of clothing and toys to Wal-Mart and Kohl's rose 2.4%, while local Hong Kong clothing chain Bossini inched up 1.1%. China Resources, which runs food and retail businesses in both Hong Kong and China rose 0.9%. Celebrations and shopping over Chinese New Year should give a boost to most Chinese retail businesses this week.
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