Asian shares mixed following US gains

HONG KONG - Asian markets were mixed Wednesday following gains on Wall Street, as investors awaited fresh numbers that will give an indication of the health of the US economy.

Tokyo shares closed up 1.32 per cent, or 183.16 points, at 14,050.16 due to bargain-hunting in late trading and with a weak yen continuing to support the bourse.

Seoul closed up 0.57 per cent, or 10.88 points, at 1,923.91. Sydney closed flat at 5,157.4 after a choppy session in which Commonwealth Bank shares fell despite posting the biggest-ever profit by an Australian bank.

Shanghai finished down 0.29 per cent, or 6.02 points, to 2,100.14, reversing earlier gains as worries resurfaced over the domestic economy. Trading on the Hong Kong stock exchange was suspended for the day following disruption caused by Typhoon Utor.

Dealers cited improved economic data in the US, Europe and China for buoying investor sentiment, along with a Japanese media report saying that Tokyo was mulling corporate tax cuts to help offset an expected rise in sales tax.

Investors are closely watching a series of data releases due this week from the United States, the world's biggest economy. On Tuesday, retail figures showed a lower-than-expected 0.2 per cent rise but some analysts pointed to overall strength in non-automobile purchases.

Figures for housing and industrial production are expected later in the week.

Wednesday's rise in Tokyo mirrored gains in the United States, after a US Federal Reserve official stressed that the Fed's expected tapering of its massive $85-billion-a-month stimulus programme would be cautious.

The American market was also buoyed after corporate raider Carl Icahn revealed he has a large stake in Apple, sending the technology titan 4.8 per cent higher.

The billionaire activist took to Twitter to disclose his "large" stake in the company, which he rated "extremely undervalued".

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.20 per cent while the tech-rich Nasdaq - which includes Apple - rose 0.39 per cent.

Analysts said investors would look for clues from the Fed when they meet next month.

"Investors will likely take a wait-and-see approach until September when the US Federal Open Market Committee meets and the Japanese government releases its growth strategies and makes decisions on sales and corporate taxes," Hideyuki Ishiguro, assistant manager of investment strategy at Okasan Securities, told Dow Jones Newswires.

The dollar changed hands at 98.35 yen Wednesday afternoon, rising from 98.22 yen in New York on Tuesday.

The euro stood at $1.3264 and 130.34 yen against $1.3262 and 130.26 yen in New York.

In oil markets New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate for delivery in September, was down 40 cents at $106.39 a barrel in afternoon Asian trade. Brent North Sea crude for September shed 45 cents to $109.37.

Gold was at $1,325.43 an ounce at 1100 GMT compared with $1,319.88 late Monday.

In other markets:

- Taipei fell 0.41 per cent, or 34.94 points, to 7,951.33. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co was 0.41 per cent lower at Tw$96.8, while leading integrated circuit design house MediaTek dropped 0.82 per cent to Tw$363.0.

- Wellington ended flat, down just 0.03 per cent, or 1.23 points, at 4,524.59.

Sky City casino was down 4.15 per cent after an 8.1 per cent fall in annual net profit and Kathmandu Holdings rose 3.0 per cent to NZ$2.74.

- Kuala Lumpur ended flat, dipping 1.36 points to 1,793.73.

UEM Sunrise was 2.1 per cent lower at 2.75 ringgit while Bumi Armada gained 2.1 per cent to 3.94 ringgit.

- Jakarta gained 1.02 per cent, or 47.34 points, to 4,699.73.

Car maker Astra International rose 2.27 per cent to 6,750 rupiah, while cigarette maker Gudang Garam added 4.15 per cent to 42,700 rupiah.

- Singapore closed up 0.14 per cent, or 4.54 points, at 3,248.66.

Singapore Telecom was down 0.26 per cent at S$3.81 while DBS Bank gained 0.40 per cent to S$17.39.

- Bangkok gained 0.11 per cent or 1.55 points to 1,460.63.

Supermarket operator Siam Makro jumped 7.14 per cent to 690.00 baht, while Thai Airways International fell 3.23 per cent to 21.00 baht.

- Mumbai rose 0.72 per cent, or 137.75 points, to 19,367.59.

Tata Steel climbed 3.59 per cent to 249.80 points.