Tokyo resists Wall Street slide
By Alex Frew McMillan
HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- Asian stocks faltered Wednesday on weakness from Wall Street, with only Japan closing higher.
The Nikkei average ended the day up 0.77 percent to 8,549.85, while the broader Topix finished just 0.12 percent higher at 845.29. At one point during the day, both indexes were more than 1 percent ahead.
Telecoms locked in a second day of advances, led by Japan Telecom and KDDI.
South Korea was in the black early, but finished half a percent lower. Australia and New Zealand saw the heaviest selling, both down around 1 percent.
There are slight declines in Singapore and Malaysia, and Hong Kong dropped 0.78 percent.
Investors in Asia are waiting for guidance on the U.S. course of action towards Iraq when Secretary of State Colin Powell addresses the United Nations on Wednesday in New York.
Wall Street fell on Tuesday, with the Dow Jones industrial average down 1.19 percent to 8,013.29 and Nasdaq off 1.33 percent to 1,306.15. (U.S. roundup)
After the close, Cisco Systems beat forecasts by a penny but offered a cloudy forecast. (Full story)
Cell-phone plays up in Tokyo
In Tokyo, cell-phone stocks enjoyed solid gains, with KDDI up 3.3 percent to 373,000 yen after Japan's No. 2 mobile operator on Tuesday posted strong earnings for the December quarter. (Full story)
Third-ranked Japan Telecom shares soared 5.8 percent to 384,000 yen after it confirmed a report that Vodafone is considering selling its majority stake in the company. (Full story)
Industry leader NTT DoCoMo, Tokyo's largest listing, was up 3.85 percent at midday, but then faded to close 0.43 percent lower at 233,000 yen.
In the banking sector, Mizuho Holdings lost almost 4 percent to 121,000 yen and UFJ Holdings slipped 3.3 percent to 147,000 yen.
But Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group put on 0.26 percent to 385,000 yen, a day after a report that it will recapitalize by issuing preferred stock.
Yen hitting exporters
The yen is trading a little stronger at 119.43, after weakening significantly on Monday. Experts say the dollar's gains will not hold.
"With the war with Iraq approaching inexorably, any dollar rally will only provide better selling opportunities," Global Forex Trading analyst Cornelius Luca stated.
Exporters were lower, with Sony Corp. off 1.05 percent to 4,690 yen and Toyota Motor down 0.34 percent to 2,965 yen. Toyota confirmed Wednesday it will spend $800 million building a new plant in Texas to make light trucks. (Full story)
After the close, Toyota reported third-quarter sales of 4.187 trillion yen and a sharply increased net profit of 216.1 billion yen, compared with 111.47 billion yen a year earlier. (Profit jump)
Nissan Motor finished 2.17 percent higher at 943 yen, while Honda Motor put on half a percent to 4,120 yen.
Hong Kong off on U.S. lag
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng closed down 0.78 percent to 9,180.47, dragged by a fall in blue chips largely in response to the U.S. selloff.
Bank stock HSBC surrendered all of Tuesday's gains, off 0.6 percent to HK$82.25.
Airline Cathay Pacific, which would suffer higher fuel prices from war in the Persian Gulf, ended 1.75 percent lower at HK$11.20.
Jiangxi Copper was one of the best performers among Hong Kong-listed mainland companies, jumping to its highest close in more than three years at HK$1.39 -- a leap of 12.1 percent.
Oil producer CNOOC drove up 3.94 percent to HK$10.55 as oil prices continue to rise.
Sydney finishes lower
In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 index finished 0.95 percent lower at 2,918.7, moving toward four-month lows.
News Corp. closed 3.45 percent lower at A$10.92, its lowest level since November, after Wall Street's fall.
Magnate Rupert Murdoch confirmed he is expecting his sixth child, his second with Wendi Deng. (Full story)
Troubled financial services giant AMP hit a record low of A$8.85 before closing at A$8.99, a fall of 2.3 percent.
Most big caps were lower, with miner BHP Billiton down 0.33 percent to A$9.09, Rio Tinto off half a percent to A$32.74 and telecom stock Telstra off 0.9 percent to A$4.42.
Big banks eased, Westpac losing 2.3 percent to A$13.64.
Gold stocks finished higher, though, as investors bid bullion up to seven-year highs of $380 an ounce. Placer Dome rose 4.44 percent to A$20.00 and Lihir Gold put on 3.3 percent to A$1.57.
New Zealand's Top 40 closed down 1.34 percent to 1,958.74. Telecom New Zealand gave up 1.10 percent to A$4.48.
Retailer The Warehouse plunged 12.53 percent to NZ$6.20 after reporting disappointing earnings. (Full story)
South Korea's Kospi opened lower, climbed just in the black by early afternoon but then closed in the red, down 0.51 percent to 600.68.
Steelmaker Posco finished 2.06 percent higher at 124,000 won and Korea Electric Power Corp put on 2.03 percent to 17,600 won.
But there were declines for the market's biggest stock, chipmaker Samsung Electronics, off 0.34 percent to 293,000 won, and cell-phone service SK Telecom, off 1.09 percent to 181,500 won.
Fixed-line telecom KT Corp. fell 2.65 percent to 47,700 won after reporting a large leap in quarterly profit, thanks in part from selling a chunk of SK Telecom shares. (Full story)
DBS down in Singapore
Singapore's Straits Times index ended slightly lower, shaving off 4.7 points or 0.36 percent to 1,295.65.
Bank stock DBS Group lost 1.92 percent to S$10.20.
Smaller rival United Overseas Bank, the city-state's biggest lender, shed 0.96 percent to S$10.30 while OCBC ended 0.56 percent lower at S$8.85.
SingTel is up 3.05 percent to S$1.35 ahead of an earnings release on Friday.