- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2009

SHANGHAI (AP) - Asia’s stock market rally seemed to be running out of steam Wednesday, despite an overnight surge on Wall Street, as investors cashed in on recent gains amid persistent doubts about the outlook for the global economy.

“So far, the market has followed the U.S. rebound, but the index is facing resistance,” said Castor Pang, an analyst at Sun Hung Kai Financial in Hong Kong. “The rebound has almost reached its limit,” he said, noting that turnover in most markets is not rising quickly enough to suggest a recovery.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index led the region, gaining 204.30 points, or 1.5 percent, to 13,082.77, while Shanghai’s benchmark Composite Index added 0.5 percent to 2,229.72.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 stock average briefly surpassed 8,000 for the first time in a month, but succumbed to selling as investors cashed in on recent gains. As afternoon trading began, the index slid 0.5 percent to 7,910.94.

Australia’s benchmark S&P;/ASX 200 edged 0.1 percent lower to 3,449.50 after miner Rio Tinto dropped 8.6 percent on worries over its deal with Aluminum Corp. of China. South Korea’s key index was flat.

Wall Street got a surprise boost Tuesday, posting its fifth gain in six trading sessions, from a government report that home construction picked up in February. The news, which was unexpected, injected new energy into a week-old rally.

Banking shares in Asia extended gains, with Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group up more than 1 percent and Mizuho Financial Group advancing more than 3 percent.

In China, major steel maker Baoshan Iron & Steel gained 2.3 percent and airlines were mostly higher, with China Eastern Airlines surging 4.9 percent and Air China gaining 2.4 percent.

Major banks fell back, with Industrial & Commercial Bank of China slipping 0.9 percent and Shanghai Pudong Development Bank falling 0.8 percent.

In New York Tuesday, the Dow Jones industrial average jumped 179 points, or 2.5 percent, to 7,395.70. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index climbed more than 3 percent.

U.S. stock index futures were down modestly, pointing to a lower open on Wall Street Wednesday. Dow futures were down 9 points, or 0.1 percent, while S&P; 500 futures were down 2.9 percent, or 0.4 percent.

In Europe, shares fell back Tuesday. Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 0.2 percent, Germany’s DAX index fell 1.4 percent, and France’s CAC-40 slid 0.9 percent.

Oil prices fell in Asian trading, with benchmark crude for April delivery declining 61 cents to $48.55 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In currencies, the dollar rose to 98.47 yen from 98.22 yen late Monday in New York, while the euro rose to $1.2996 from $1.2969.

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