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Korea tops gains, BOJ gets new chief

By Alex Frew McMillan

South Korea's market did best in Asia Monday, as dancers in Seoul rehearse for President-elect Roh Moo-hyun's inauguration Tuesday
South Korea's market did best in Asia Monday, as dancers in Seoul rehearse for President-elect Roh Moo-hyun's inauguration Tuesday

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HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- Asian stocks closed mainly higher on Monday, with strong gains in South Korea, Australia and Taiwan.

Japan painted a mixed picture. The Nikkei 225 put on 0.6 percent to end at 8,564.95 but the broader Topix closed just in the red, down 0.14 percent at 838.96.

New Zealand also ended down, with Hong Kong posting a slight loss and Singapore surrendering 0.45 percent.

In Tokyo, investors were looking for positive news out of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's choice of Toshihiko Fukui as the new governor of the central Bank of Japan. (Full story)

Wall Street's strong end to last week gave Asian markets an early boost on Monday. South Korea's Kospi held onto the gains to close 2.1 percent higher for the region's strongest showing.

Australia's S&P/ASX200 put on 1.27 percent, and Taiwan's Taiex registered a similar gain, up 1.34 percent.

On Friday, the Dow Jones industrial average surged ahead 1.3 percent to 8,018.11, while Nasdaq jumped 1.34 percent to 1,349.02. (Full story)

Anticipation of change

BOJ frontrunner Fukui is regarded as a conservative unlikely to diverge from the bank's current course
BOJ frontrunner Fukui is regarded as a conservative unlikely to diverge from the bank's current course

Tokyo's market warmed Monday on word that conservative candidate Fukui had been appointed to take over the BOJ. The move was officially confirmed late in the day. (Full story)

Fukui, a career BOJ staffer, is unlikely to diverge far from the current course. But two reform-minded deputies were also named, and the market is keen for any new ideas to tackle deflation.

There were good gains for bank stock UFJ Holdings, up 2.86 percent to 144,000 yen. Mizuho Holdings also rose, putting on 0.88 percent to 115,000 yen, and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group added 0.96 percent to 316,000 yen.

Big caps eased after early gains. Toyota Motor dipped 0.35 percent to 2,875 yen and Sony was off 0.22 percent to 4,580 yen.

Mobile phone giant NTT DoCoMo, the market's biggest stock, fell 2.51 percent to 233,000 yen.

Fujitsu posted a solid 2 percent gain to 354 yen, Canon rose 1.4 percent to 4,330 yen and Hitachi was also up slightly.

Tokyo Electron, a bellwether for the tech sector, rose 2.72 percent to 5,670 yen, while Advantest put on 1.9 percent to 5,350 yen.

HSBC up in Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng ended basically flat, down 0.12 percent to 9,250.86.

hong kong
Telecom stock PCCW was down again in Hong Kong

HSBC, the largest listing, provided a firm foundation with a 0.3 percent rise to HK$84.00.

Telecom company PCCW sold off again, closing down 3.6 percent to HK$5.35 and proving the biggest big-cap loser for the day.

That continues its 6 percent decline Friday when it revealed a $1.06 billion writedown in its Reach joint venture with Telstra Corp. of Australia. (Full story)

Oil producer CNOOC turned around during the day to end with a 0.96 percent fall to HK$10.35.

Pay-television service i-Cable set another record low, down 5.7 percent to HK$2.075, after falling 13.8 percent on Friday at the prospect of competition from the launch of TVB's Galaxy pay-TV service.

BHP up in Sydney

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index rose 1.27 percent to 2,855.9, buoyed by a 2.75 percent gain for mining giant BHP Billiton to A$9.34.

BHP reported a 19 percent decline in first-half profit, in line with the market's expectations, but said its cash flow is steady. (Full story)

Woolworths, Australia's second-largest retailer, jumped 5.33 percent to A$11.27 after reporting first-half profit rose 18.3 percent, driven by cost-cutting measures. (Full story)

The market's biggest stock, media group News Corp., rose 2.72 percent to A$10.94.

But another big cap, telecom stock Telstra, eased 0.48 percent to A$4.18 in heavy volume after the writedown on Reach. (Full story)

Takeover target Goodman Fielder topped the volume, up 0.56 percent to A$1.79.

New Zealand's Top 40 closed down 0.58 percent at 1,903.02, with Telecom New Zealand off 1.12 percent to NZ$4.40.

Taiwan flat

Taiwan's Taiex picked up in afternoon trade after opening lower, to close up 1.34 percent at 4,609.20.

Industrials were broadly higher, with 4 percent-plus gains for Nan Ya Plastic, Taiwan Cement and Far Eastern Textile.

China Steel rose 3.15 percent to T$22.90.

Tech stocks also showed some gains, with Quanta Computer up 4.3 percent and Asustek Computer up 3.3 percent. But screenmaker Au Optronics was down 0.42 percent to T$23.90.

Chip foundry TSMC, the market's biggest stock, rose 0.89 percent to T$45.30. Smaller rival UMC put on 1.48 percent to T$20.60.

Big caps drive Seoul surge

Prosecutors seized documents from the SK Group ahead of Chey's weekend arrest
Prosecutors seized documents from the SK Group ahead of Chey's weekend arrest

In South Korea, the Kospi added 2.1 percent to 616.29 for the day's strongest performance in Asia.

Samsung Electronics, the largest listing, closed up 2.48 percent to 309,500 won, while No. 2 stock SK Telecom rose 4.19 percent to 174,000 won.

The SK Group, the country's third-largest conglomerate, has been shaken by the weekend arrest and jailing of its vice-chairman Chey Tae-won on illegal stock trading charges. ( Full story)

Steelmaker Posco rose 2.68 percent to 115,000 won and LG Electronics jumped 3.9 percent to 41,250 won, as institutions bought into the market.

But big exporter Hyundai Motor eased slightly, off 0.18 percent to 27,000 won.

DBS down after figures

Singapore's Straits Times index closed off 0.45 percent to 1,306.79.

DBS Group was down 1.92 percent to S$10.20 after reporting last week a surprisingly strong 1.9 percent rise in net profit for the year. (Full story)

Rival bank OCBC gained 1.11 percent to S$9.10, though there were also declines for UOB, off 1.8 percent to S$10.90.

Malaysian stocks also ended lower, with the Kuala Lumpur composite off 0.45 percent to 651.56.

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