August 17th, 2011
10:17 AM GMT
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Hong Kong, China (CNN) – Directionless is the apt word for Asia-Pacific markets this Wednesday after investors were largely underwhelmed by a Eurozone summit Tuesday, headlined by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The meeting of minds for Europe’s two largest economies basically produced few tangible results to solving the Continent’s ongoing debt crisis. The main outcomes: a “no” to increasing a European bailout fund, a “no” to Euro bonds and a “yes” to resubmitting a transaction tax proposal that had failed EU passage in 2010.

In Japan, the Nikkei closed down 0.55%. Major exporters Nissan, Toyota and Sony were heavyweights that dragged down the index, all falling between 1.5% and 2.5%. Honda throttled back to be the biggest loser of the Japanese export bunch, down 2.48%.

August 15th, 2011
10:03 AM GMT
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Hong Kong, China (CNN) – Today in Asia-Pacific, markets closed the day higher across the board, adding to moderate gains this past Friday. Better-than-expected GDP data from Japan and four-month high retail numbers from the United States helped boost investor confidence. Markets started in the green and kept climbing through the day. By the close, we saw major markets gain between 1.30% and 3.26%.

The Nikkei ended up 1.37% to close past the psychological 9,000-mark. Japan’s latest GDP number also came out. They showed the country’s economy shrank 1.3% year-on-year. Anemic? Yes. A good number, regardless? Definitely. Forecasts had expected Japan’s GDP contraction to come in at about 2.5%.  The yen, though, is still a chronic concern for exporters. As of 4.30 pm Hong Kongtime, it was trading at 76.82 to the dollar. Automakers veered around the yen’s strength. Toyota rose 2.9%, Nissan rose 3.3% and Honda throttled ahead at 3.4%.

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Filed under: AsiaBusinessChinaHong KongJapan

August 12th, 2011
09:48 AM GMT
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Hong Kong, China (CNN) – Most Asia-Pacific markets ended Friday moderately higher, rounding out a week of wild volatility. Better-than-expected data out of the U.S. – including lower jobless claims numbers and good earnings from tech bellwether Cisco – helped boost investor confidence.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 closed down 0.20%, failing to stay above the psychological 9,000-point mark after briefly touching it in morning trade. At 430 pm Hong Kong time, the yen was trading at 76.71 to the dollar, once again nearing its post-war high. That strength impacted exporters. Auto manufacturers Nissan and Honda were down, 2.26% and 1.25% respectively. Electronics maker Sony closed down 2.04%.

In Greater China, the Hang Seng closed up 0.13%, paring earlier gains. That was not enough to break a longer downward trend. Today marks a third week of overall losses for the index. Li & Fung soared today after beating first-half net income forecasts by about $30 million. The company supplies clothes and other consumer goods to Wal-Mart after inking a major deal in January 2010.  The Shanghai Composite closed 0.45% higher, following the region’s climb on those good U.S. numbers, as well as on continued speculation the People’s Bank of China will avoid raising interest rates in its fight against inflation, which currently stands at 6.5%.

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Filed under: AsiaBusiness

August 11th, 2011
09:44 AM GMT
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Hong Kong, China (CNN) – It’s not as bad as it could have been for Asia-Pacific markets following Wednesday’s 4% falls on the U.S. indices.

The Nikkei slumped 0.63% but a dark milestone looms ahead. The index continues to near its lowest close in the past five months. Financial-related stocks led today’s declines. Japan’s largest bank, Mitsubishi UFJ, fell 1.9%. Sumitomo Mitsui dropped 1.8%. In a one-two punch, the yen is again nearing a post-war high. A stronger yen hurts Japan’s exporters – when they repatriate earnings made overseas they receive less yen in the exchange. Automakers Honda and Nissan each fell close to 3.5%.

In Greater China, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 0.95% paring earlier losses. Major financial-related stocks were again hit. HSBC Holdings and Bank of China both closed down about 3.5%. On the mainland, the Shanghai Composite managed an early afternoon rally to end higher by 1.27%. Speculation is growing the People’s Bank of China may keep interest rates steady which is helping to calm investor jitters.

On the Korean peninsula, the Seoul KOSPI managed to eke out a gain of 0.62%. Investor confidence rose after South Korea’s central bank, the Bank of Korea, announced it would keep its benchmark interest rate on hold at 3.25%.

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August 9th, 2011
12:40 PM GMT
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Hong Kong, China (CNN) – Oh my! In the past 24 hours, three of Asia’s dragon economies have traded in their scales and roars for shaggy fur and whimpers. That’s thanks to the shock from S&P’s unprecedented downgrade of the U.S. debt rating last Friday.

China, Hong Kong and South Korea are now officially bear market economies. They’ve lost at least 20% of their value from their previous peaks.

Today, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng crossed into bear territory after falling 22% from its November 2010 high. China’s Shanghai Composite has fallen 20% from early April. South Korea’s KOSPI Composite has tanked 20% from its recent high in May.


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Filed under: ChinaHong KongIndiaJapanSouth Korea

August 1st, 2011
12:36 PM GMT
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Hong Kong, China (CNN) – Cut cost, boost revenue. From global businesses to national governments across Europe and North America, this seems to be the monetary mantra of 2011. For HSBC, one of the world’s largest banks, it’s no different.

Today, HSBC confirmed the first steps of its Great Realignment around the world. To cut costs, an eye-popping 25,000 employees will lose their jobs between now and 2013. To boost revenue, retail banking will be scaled down while more lucrative corporate banking will be scaled up.

Right after the plan was unveiled late Monday in Hong Kong, HSBC’s London share price popped 4.5% in early trade. The company’s better-than-expected first half earnings likely supported that as well. The data, also out today, showed HSBC’s earnings for the six months to June came in at $11.5 billion – 3% up from the first half of 2011 and 45% up from the second half of 2010. Analysts had expected pre-tax profits of $600 million less. The world’s local bank needs more good news like this.

July 28th, 2011
10:30 AM GMT
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Hong Kong, China (CNN) – Washington’s debt deadlock continued to rattle markets here in Asia-Pacific. We saw steeper declines than those on Wednesday with financial-related stocks weighing heavy on bourses across the region.


The Nikkei closed down 1.45% breaching that psychological 10,000 point mark to close at 9,901.35. Auto exporters and financials led today’s slide. Toyota and Nissan each fell more than 2%; Mitsubishi UFJ and Sumitomo Mitsui closed down about 1.5%. One of the biggest losers of the day was in the tech sector: Advantest fell by nearly 7%. The world’s largest maker of memory-chip testers announced its operating profit fell more than 50% from last year. On the flip side, Hitachi Construction jumped nearly 4% after a surge in its Q2 net profit.

Hong Kong

The Hang Seng ended nominally higher, rising 0.13% to close at 22,570.74. It was a similar picture to that on the Nikkei with financials leading the fall. China Construction Bank closed down 0.94% while Industrial and Commercial Bank of China closed down 1.67%.

Mainland China

Financials dragged things down on the mainland as well. The Shanghai Composite closed down 0.54% to end at 2708.78. Beijing has also ordered new directives on loans, particularly in real estate, which soured that industry’s mood.

South Korea

The Seoul Kospi followed the region lower to close 0.85% at 2,155.85. Asiana Airlines fell 4.74% after one of its cargo planes crashed earlier Thursday morning. Meanwhile, insurance companies were rattled by continued torrential rains slamming the country. LIG Insurance closed down 0.55%, Dongbu Insurance paired earlier losses to close exactly flat at 0.00% while Samsung Fire & Marine pulled out of earlier negativity to post a gain of 0.85% at the close.


Down under, the ASX 200 fell 1.62% to close at 4463.80 with financials and retailers leading the slide. Investment bank Macquarie Group closed down about 4.5%. Wesfarmers, the country’s second biggest retailer, fell about 2.39%. Retailers are worried about a possible interest rate hike in August when the Reserve Bank of Australia next meets. That follows yesterday’s higher than expected consumer price index figure of 0.9%. A reading of 0.7% was expected.

Asia-Pacific Currencies Gain

Major currencies in the Asia-Pacific strengthened against the U.S. dollar yet again as faith in the greenback – and Washington – continues to waver.

Over the past year, the U.S. dollar has weakened by almost 10% on the same-named U.S. dollar index. That measures its value against a basket of major world currencies including the Euro, the Japanese yen and the British pound.

In just the past month, when U.S. debt ceiling talks began to come to a boil, the Japanese yen has strengthened by nearly 4%. That has occurred against the backdrop of growing fears about the U.S. with investors moving into the safety of the Japanese currency.

And it’s a similar story with the Australian dollar. In the past month the currency has strengthened about 4.5% against the greenback. Last October it reached 1-to-1 parity with the U.S. dollar and it has not looked back since. Just yesterday, the Aussie neared a 30-year high on fears about the U.S. debt ceiling, compounded by that higher than expected CPI.

We’ve seen the same strengthening in theSingaporedollar. In the past month it’s strengthened about 3% against the dollar.

What does this mean?

There are winners and there are losers. It hurts exporters as it reduces their profits when they repatriate their earnings back home. It impacts travelers carrying U.S. dollars as it weakens their buying power in countries with stronger currencies. However, it may give a lift to retailers as the buying power of domestic consumers strengthens as consumers get more bang for their buck.

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Filed under: AsiaChinaHong KongJapanSouth Korea

July 19th, 2011
03:18 AM GMT
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(CNN) – So gold has broken the $1600 barrier – a significant price milestone.

But as sure as we talk about it this week, we’ll likely be talking about another hundred-dollar price jump again soon as global investors head for safe havens. That’s because 2011 has been packed with crises of confidence around the world – and we may be in for more.

Simply put, crises are to the price of gold as matches are to bottle rockets: One makes the other go pop.

July 15th, 2011
02:01 AM GMT
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Hong Kong (CNN) – The most expensive city in the world for expats is … in Africa? Ok I’ll admit I was surprised when I read this finding from Mercer’s 2011 Cost of Living Survey.  The place: Luanda, the capital city of Angola. But when you look at the consulting company’s formula, it makes sense.

Mercer looked at two main variables.  One is the strength or weakness of the local currency compared to the same time last year.  If it’s grown stronger against the U.S. dollar then that would push the city higher in the rankings.  The other is the price increase or decrease of a basket of commodities. If the price increased relative to the basket of goods based in New York, then that would push the city higher as well.

Here’s Mercer’s top 10 list this year. Is your city here?

July 4th, 2011
11:17 PM GMT
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(CNN) – Oh say can you see…the end of American independence?

This Fourth of July, the United States celebrates its 235th year of freedom from British rule. That’s emancipated us from yeasty marmite, pesky ‘u’s in our ‘neighbors’ and from having to ask God to “save the Queen”.

Phew. Yes, today we celebrate our independence from Britain.

But we do that by underlining our growing dependence on another country – China. And with our most patriotic of Americana for the day – fireworks and flags.

Nearly 97% of U.S. money for firework imports popped up in China last year, according to U.S. trade statistics. The hard numbers: we paid nearly $200 million for all of our skyrockets, Roman candles, sparklers and other pyrotechnics. More than $190 million of that went to the Middle Kingdom.

As for the Stars and Stripes, about 88% of our money for American flag imports billowed over to China in 2010.  U.S. foreign trade statistics show that the U.S. imported $3.2 million worth of flags, and $2.8 million of that went to our top trade partner.


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