Memory Chips Prop up the Nikkei, Chalco Rises on the Hang Seng

In Asia Monday the Nikkei 225 Index added 0.2% to close at 10,519 and in Hong Kong the Hang Seng Index remained virtually unchanged at 24,154. In China the Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.1% to 2,709.

Elpida Memory propped up the Nikkei today. After the chip maker announced plans to raise prices by 10%, shares surged 4.5%. Its products are found in everything from PlayStations to Dell laptops, but shares have slid so low over the past few months that the company was forced to slash production. And despite the fact that everyone needs them, the market price of memory chips has tanked. "Prices of DRAM chips appear to have reached a bottom," one fund manager in Taipei told Bloomberg. But others are less optimistic, predicting that oversupplies could have a negative impact, sending prices even lower this year.

Japanese steelmakers tumbled as reports surfaced that they will miss earnings targets. Among the worst performers were Nippon Steel, which slid as much as 3% during the day, ending the day down 1.3%, and JFE holdings, which lost as much as 2.3% and ended the trading session down 1.4%.

Top performers on Japan's big board included heavy machinery firm Furukawa, which surged 3.9%, and Toray Industries, a textile firm that produces elements for liquid crystal displays as well as faux-leather and polyester, whose shares rose 2.9% today.

In Hong Kong, investors in Aluminum Corp. of China, or Chalco, were rewarded today as shares leaped 5.5%. The company thanks huge sales volumes and higher prices for helping it return to profit. Other mining companies that advanced included Jiangxi Copper, which jumped 1%, and Zijin, which edged up 0.3%.

For other miners the outlook was not so bright. Maanshan Iron & Steel sank 2.1% in Hong Kong and Zhaojin Mining Industry slipped 0.8%.

There were mixed results for the city's real estate firms. Big gains for Sino Land, which rose 2.5%, and Sun Hung Kai, which advanced 1.4%, were countered by Hang Lung's loss of 1.3% and Cheung Kong's loss of 1%. Guangzhou R&F, which focuses on properties in Guangzhou and Beijing, racked up a 0.7% gain and Henderson Land was up 0.3%.

In China, companies peddling consumer staples rose steadily with investors betting that prices in the sector are less vulnerable to an economic slowdown. Liquor makers were among the biggest winners with Kweichow Moutai rocketing up 4% and Wuliangye Yibin climbing 2%. Others like SunOpta, a maker of organic foods that are quite a new concept in China, rose 0.6%.

Chinese banks gained ground today. Industrial & Commercial Bank of China surged 0.7% Yesterday ICBC opened five branches in Europen cities including Paris, Brussles Milan and Madrid, reports Capitalvue.com. It's all part of the company's vision of becoming a truly global bank. China Construction Bank increased 0.6% and Agricultural Bank of China inched up 0.4%.

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