Japan's Nikkei 225 Index advanced 2.7% on Friday, ending a turbulent week at 9,207. In Hong Kong the Hang Seng Index inched up 0.1% to 22,300 and in China the Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.3% to close at 2,907.
As workers at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant continue to fight off a nuclear meltdown, G-7 countries have united to help stave off economic disaster. The group of seven industrialized countries agreed to intervene in currency markets for the first time in more than a decade to prevent the yen from rising further after it hit a record high earlier this week.
In a statement released by the European Central Bank, the G-7 said its actions were "at the request of the Japanese authorities," adding that "We will monitor exchange markets closely and will cooperate as appropriate." Japan's central bank has pledged to adopt strategies for "powerful monetary easing."
Exporters benefited from the decline in the yen. Lower yen valuations increase the amount companies earn selling merchandise abroad, since they end up with more yen once they repatriate profits. Daikin Industries, a major exporter of air conditioners, rallied 8.7%. The company has numerous plants and service centers doing business in locations ranging from Osaka to Thailand to Shanghai, which were not all affected by the earthquake and tsunami.
Among electronics exporters Pioneer jumped 9.8%, OKI Electric surged 7.3%, NEC rallied 6.9% and Ricoh gained 6.7%. Car electronics maker Alps climbed 6.5% and Konica Minolta soared 5.5%. Yokogawa Electric, which provides IT solutions as well as electronic components, adaptors and semiconductors motored up 8.5%.
Other consumer product manufacturers also gained. Watchmaker Citizen Holdings shot up 6.15% and Fast Retailing, the operator of Uniqlo shops around the world, advanced 6.4%. Upscale department store Takashimaya leaped 9.5%.
Food and beverage companies also fared better with Kikkoman of soy sauce fame rising 4.6% and beer maker Kirin up 1.1%.
Eyes on Builders, Construction Companies
Japanese builders and construction material firms are the ones to watch -- they'll be doing swift business once the recovery begins. Today Taiheiyo Cement zipped up 15.3%, Japan Steel Works climbed 10.8% and Nippon Steel advanced 4.1%. Obayashi, which is part of a consortium developing and erecting the super high-tech, fully automated Dubai metro, rose 4.6% and its partner in the Dubai project, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which also develops nuclear power plants, gained 5.9%.
Shares in Tokyo Electric Power, the beleaguered owner of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, reversed course for the first time this week, shooting up 17.9%. The company is racing to reconnect a power line leading to the pumps needed to cool the reactors.
Hong Kong markets fluctuated, closely watching the global situation and waiting for signs of stability. Most real estate firms gained with both China Overseas and China Resources Land rocketing up 6.5%, Henderson Land spiking 4.1%, Sino Land climbing 3.3% and New World Development gaining 3.2%. But there were losses too as Sun Hung Kai dipped 0.3% and Swire Pacific lost 0.2%.
Insurers sank lower with China Life falling 1.6% and Ping An losing 0.9%.
Chinese efforts to cool the real estate market received a blow today as new statistics show that the price of new properties in China rose in 56 out of 70 major cities. This helped pump up shares in Gemdale Corp, which rose 2.3%. Poly Real Estate, which gained 2%, and China Vanke, which added 0.3%.
In China Sany Heavy which specializes in construction machinery including concrete pumps and paving equipment rallied 7.6% and Zhejiang Jinggong Science & Technology, a maker of heavy machinery, also climbed 7.6%.
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