Japanese Exporters Gain; Tick-Borne Disease Boosts Pharma Shares

Asian markets were mixed Thursday. In Japan the Nikkei 225 Index rose 0.8% to 9,098 and in Hong Kong the Hang Seng Index inched up 0.4% to 21,167. China's Shanghai Composite Index slid 1.4% to end the day at 2,656.

Japanese markets reacted quickly to a slight fall in the value of the yen and to signs that the European debt crisis won't hamper global economic growth. "Fading fear about the European deficit crisis is having a big impact on today's stock market," a money manager at Mizuho Asset Management told Bloomberg. Investors seemed to brush aside worries over the yen reaching a 15-year record high of 83.35 against the dollar yesterday.

Among Japanese exporters dependent on cashing in on good exchange rates when they bring their earnings back home, Pioneer surged 1.6%, Canon rose 1.3%, Sony advanced 1%, FujiFilm climbed 1.9% and Konica Minolta advanced 1.1%. The news was less good for Sharp, which fell 0.6% and Casio Computer, which slid 0.5%.

Japanese carmakers rallied today with Toyota motoring up 3.5%, Isuzu surging 1.4%, Honda rising 1.2% and Mazda gaining 1.1%. Fuji Heavy Industry, which makes vehicles under the Subaru brand, advanced 1.3%. It was an equally good day for makers of car components. Asahi Glass, which provides window glass for clients including Mercedes Benz, BMW and Fiat, as well as fellow Japanese companies Toyota, Nissan and Honda, spiked 2.3% and Jtekt, a car parts company, climbed 2.1%.

Asahi also provides parts to Chinese carmakers, which today celebrated a 39% surge in year-on-year car sales in the first eight months of the year. According to Xinhua, 11.49 million vehicles have sold in China so far this year. But this news wasn't enough to satisfy investors and shares in Chinese automakers slumped today. DongFeng tumbled 3.8%, SAIC dived 3.2% and FAW Car slid 2.6%.

Property developers continued to drag in China as investors await news on additional curbs on real estate investments. Poly Real Estate slumped 4.1%, China Vanke dropped 3.4% and Gemdale declined 1.7%.

Meanwhile, health scares over bacteria containing a gene that makes them drug-resistant, combined with news that a tick-borne disease has claimed 18 lives sent shares in Chinese pharmaceutical companies higher. Acording to Xinhua News, there have been 557 reported cases of human granulocytic anaplasmosis (HGA), a tick-bite induced disease, since spring 2007. While the disease is treatable, if left unchecked it can lead to organ failure and death. Shandong Lukang Pharmaceutical, a maker of antibiotics, hit the 10% daily limit and North China Pharmaceutical jumped 5.2%. China National Medicines Corp. rose 1.6%.

In Hong Kong the market was supported by healthy gains in the real estate sector, especially those that operate large shopping malls. Wharf Holdings, which has a portfolio including the Harbour City and Times Square malls, rose 1.9% and Swire, manager of the centrally located Pacific Place mall, climbed 1.2%. New World Development added 1.1% and Henderson Land advanced 0.9%.

Hong Kong banks also headed north with Agricultural Bank leaping 3.6%, China Construction Bank rising 0.9% and Bank of China added 0.8%.

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