Asian Markets Close Higher, Chinese Copper Miners Surge in Wake of Chilean Earthquake

Shares in Asia closed higher Monday. In China the Shanghai Composite Index gained 1.2%, closing at 3,088, and in Hong Kong the Hang Seng Index rose 2.2% to close at 21,057. In Japan the Nikkei 225 Index added 0.5%, ending the day at 10,172.

Copper mining companies skyrocketed in China in the wake of Saturday's massive 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile. Power to two of Chile's huge copper mines was cut, halting operations. The mines, which are operated by Codelco, supply nearly 50% of China's copper imports, according to Bloomberg. Jiangxi Copper, Yunnan Copper Industry and Tongling Nonferrous Metals Group all climbed to their 10% maximum daily limit in today's trading.

While mining has now resumed in the El Teniente mine, Chilean exports face the added obstacle of the closure of the country's Valparaiso and San Antonio ports, making it impossible for shipments of copper or any other goods to leave the country. In Shanghai, copper futures rose 5%, and the price of copper on the London Metals Exchange spiked 5.6%.

Chinese insurance companies fared well today with Ping An Insurance surging 3.7% and China Life gaining 3.4%. Banks also closed higher with China Merchants Bank rising 2.5%, China Construction Bank and China Minsheng Banking Corp. both advancing 1.2% and Industrial & Commercial Bank of China inching up 0.8%.

Property developer China Vanke surged 3.9% saying its profits rose 32% due to massive sales in 2009, a bumper year for property in China. Poly Real estate slipped 0.4%.

In Japan, Sumitomo Metal Mining rose 1.1% after copper futures climbed due to the effects of the Chilean earthquake. The company mines copper as well as other metals like gold, silver and zinc.

Shares in Toyota slid another 1.1% even as Toyota President Akio Toyoda prepares for a press conference in China this evening. Although Toyota has only recalled about 75,000 vehicles there, reports Bloomberg, China has become a major component of the auto market and is expected to control an ever-growing portion of worldwide sales. Other Japanese car companies rose today. Mitsubishi Motors gained 1.6%, Isuzu added 1.3%. Tokyo-listed shares of tire maker Bridgestone added 1.9%. JTEKT Corp, one of the major manufacturers of Toyota parts, posted a 1.6% gain.

In Hong Kong China Merchants Holdings surged 4.3% and Wharf Holdings racked up a 4% gain. Wharf operates telecommunications businesses and develops real estate.

Property shares added value today: Cheung Kong climbed 2.3%, announcing it has three new projects that will be unveiled this month, and that 47 units at the Celestia Heights complex in Kowloon will be coming back on the market. The building commands sweeping views, boasts an enormous fountain outside and most probably features all the best of Hong Kong-style luxury, from mirrored wall paper to marble and gold bathrooms. Bloomberg reports that the apartments will go for up to $23,000 ($2,963) per square foot. Other developers also rose today: China Overseas, which develops properties in China spiked 4.6%, New World Development surged 3.7%, Sino Land gained 2.2% and Henderson Land rose 2%. If this is a property bubble in Hong Kong, investors seem to think there's still more money to be made before it bursts.

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