- The Washington Times - Monday, March 16, 2009

HONG KONG (AP) - Most Asian stock markets extended their gains Tuesday, with Tokyo’s index up 1.5 percent, as investors poured into banking shares amid easing fears about the world’s hard-hit financial system.

Investors were relieved after Britain’s Barclays PLC revealed it was performing well so far in 2009. That echoed similar upbeat assessments last week from U.S. heavyweights Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp. that have fueled the recent rally in world equity markets.

The move higher came despite a lackluster finish Monday on Wall Street, where stocks gave up early gains and ended marginally lower after a four-day advance.

Analysts were skeptical the turnaround in Asian markets would last, saying the gains weren’t justified given troubles still plaguing the region’s economies and corporations amid the most severe global downturn in years.

Dariusz Kowalczyk, chief investment strategist for SJS Markets in Hong Kong, said he expected a correction this week. He said news expected this week from the U.S. Treasury Department about its bank bailout plan might lead investors to reconsider their optimism about bank balance sheets.

“This would be a good opportunity to take some profits,” said Dariusz Kowalczyk, chief investment strategist for SJS Markets in Hong Kong. “The gains we have seen so far fully take into account the positive news we’ve heard from Barclays and the U.S. banks.”

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 stock average rose 114.67 points, or 1.5 percent, to 7,818.82. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index declined 93.08 points, or 0.7 percent, to 12,883.52, while South Korea’s Kospi rose 1.4 percent to 1,141.17.

Markets in Australia, China and Taiwan were also up, while stocks in Singapore dipped.

Overnight in New York, the Dow closed down 7.01 points, or 0.1 percent, to 7,216.97, after rising as much as 169 points during the session. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 2.66, or 0.4 percent.

U.S. stock index futures were lower, suggesting Wall Street would decline at the opening Tuesday. Dow futures were down 11 points, or 0.2 percent, while S&P; 500 futures were down 2.3 points, or 0.3 percent.

European markets rose strongly Monday, with Britain’s FTSE 100 gaining 2.9 percent to 3,863.99 and Germany’s DAX climbing 2.3 percent to 4,044.54.

Oil prices fell. Light, sweet crude for April delivery was down 33 cents at $47.02 a barrel in Asian electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In currencies, the dollar was nearly flat at 98.24 yen, while the euro rose to $1.2998 from $1.2969 late Monday in New York.

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