Asia shares up, but Standard Chartered falls again

Danny McCord
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A man monitors shares trading on electronic screens in Kuala Lumpur

A man monitors shares trading on electronic screens in Kuala Lumpur, 2009. Asian markets mostly climbed, with hopes rising for a new round of stimulus from the US and European central banks, but profit-taking reversed earlier gains in Hong Kong

Asian markets mostly climbed on Wednesday, with hopes rising for a new round of stimulus from the US and European central banks, but profit-taking reversed earlier gains in Hong Kong.

Standard Chartered's Hong Kong-listed shares fell for a second day following huge losses in London on Tuesday, after the bank was accused by US regulators of hiding sanction-busting multi-billion-dollar trades with Iran.

Tokyo closed up 0.88, or 77.85 points, at 8,881.16, Seoul put on 0.87 percent, or 16.43 points, to end at 1,903.23, while Sydney added 0.49 percent, or 21.0 points, to close at 4,312.6.

Shanghai climbed 0.16 percent, or 3.37 points, to 2,160.99, but Hong Kong was flat, dipping 7.03 points at 20,065.52 as traders looked ahead to the release on Thursday of key Chinese data including inflation and industrial production.

Hopes for US action were lifted on Tuesday following a Dow Jones Newswires report that the president of the Boston Fed said the US central bank should launch an aggressive open-ended bond-buying programme to boost the economy until unemployment begins falling again.

The news boosted Wall Street where the three main indices rose for a third straight day. The Dow finished 0.39 percent higher, while the tech-rich Nasdaq gained 0.87 percent and the S&P 500 rose 0.51 percent.

Expectations have risen over the past week that the European Central Bank will restart its purchases of sovereign debt to help struggling nations such as Spain and Italy, which have seen their borrowing costs surge to dangerous levels.

"Hopes for more ECB easing in particular are realistic; something clearly must be done to help strapped borrowers like Spain and Italy, even though Germany is resistant," said Tachibana Securities market analyst Kenichi Hirano.

On currency markets in early European trade, the euro eased to $1.2357 and 96.77 yen in Tokyo afternoon trade, compared with $1.2401 and 97.37 yen in New York late Tuesday.

The dollar changed hands at 78.31 yen against 78.59 yen in New York.

In Hong Kong Standard Chartered closed 0.50 percent lower, after slumping almost 15 percent on Tuesday following claims by US regulators that it regularly hid forex deals with Iran totalling $250 billion that potentially opened the US banking system to terrorists and criminals.

The Department of Financial Services (DFS) branded it a "rogue institution" and threatened it with fines and the suspension of its licence, which would close it off from the crucial US financial market.

London-based Standard Chartered said it "strongly rejects... the portrayal of facts as set out" by the DFS, which refer to sanctions imposed by Washington on Iran over Tehran's controversial nuclear programme.

The denial did little to appease investors in London Tuesday, where it is also listed, with its price diving 16.76 percent, having been down by one quarter at one point. However, in early London trade on Wednesday the bank surged eight percent on dip-buying.

Also in Hong Kong flag-carrier Cathay Pacific ended 4.33 percent lower after reporting that it had slumped to a $121 million loss in the first six months of 2012, from a $360 million profit in the same period last year, on falling demand and high fuel costs.

Oil fell in the late afternoon, with New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate light sweet crude for September delivery, down 47 cents to $93.20 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for September off 58 cents at $111.42.

Gold was at $1,607.80 at 1045 GMT, from $1,614.90 on Tuesday.

In other markets:

-- Wellington closed flat, edging down 0.08 percent, or 3.02 points, to 3,581.79.

Telecom fell 2.6 percent to NZ$2.66 but Oceana Gold was the largest mover, rising 7.9 percent to NZ$2.86.

-- Manila closed 0.46 percent higher, adding 24.51 points to 5,308.67.

Ayala Land rose 5.07 percent to 23.85 pesos and Philippine Long Distance Telephone gained 1.03 percent to 2,758 pesos.

-- Taipei rose 0.33 percent, or 24.34 points, to 7,319.80.

Asustek Computer was up 3.79 percent at Tw$274.0 while Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. was 1.11 percent lower at Tw$80.5.

-- Singapore fell 0.50 percent, or 15.49 points, to end at 3,052.25.

DBS Group fell 0.54 percent to Sg$14.75 while Sembcorp Industries gained 2.83 percent to Sg$5.46.

-- Indonesia rose 0.13 percent, or 5.13 points, to 4,090.71.

Thermal coal miner Bumi Resources gained 3.6 percent to 1,140 rupiah, consumer goods company Unilever rose 2.5 percent to 24,600 rupiah, while Gas Negara fell 2.0 percent to 3,650 rupiah.

-- Bangkok added 0.49 percent, or 5.94 points, to 1,214.13.

Coal miner Banpu rose 4.59 percent to 456.00 baht, while oil firm PTT rose 1.50 percent to 338.00 baht.

-- Kuala Lumpur gained 0.29 percent, or 4.8 points, to close at 1,635.92.

Petronas Dagangan was up 1.4 percent to 22.06 ringgit while CIMB Group Holdings rose 0.3 percent to 7.85 ringgit. MMC Corp lost 0.9 percent to end at 2.32 ringgit.

-- Mumbai ended flat, edging down 0.01 percent, or 1.22 points, to 17,600.56.

India's top mobile phone firm Bharti Airtel slid 6.6 percent to 274.4 rupees.