Asian Markets Overview of March 1

US shares ended marginally higher on Friday on mixed economic data. February was Wall Street's best month since November 2009 with a 2.6 per cent rise. A better-than-expected US GDP growth helped lift the market broadly, and a weaker US dollar also buoyed exporters. But the surprisingly drop in existing home sales and consumer sentiment data weighed down the US stocks.

Asian markets mostly gained on Friday. Japan's Nikkei was 0.2 per cent higher on upbeat industrial output data. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 1.0 per cent, while South Korea's Kospi added 0.5 per cent. China's Shanghai Composite Friday fell 0.3 per cent. Today metal and resource shares in the regional markets may face pressure after the massive earthquake that hit Chile.

Company News

Korea Gas Corp. (KOGAS) (SEO:036460) said it has signed an agreement to jointly explore and develop natural gas fields in Canada with Canadian energy firm EnCana Corp (TSE:ECA). KOGAS will invest US$1.1 billion over next five years to buy a combined 50% stake in three natural gas fields and jointly explore, produce and operate the fields in Canada.

Japan's Nippon Oil Corp (TYO:5001) said its 145,000 barrel-per-day Sendai refinery on the northern Pacific coast was operating normally after a tsunami hit Japan's northern Pacific coast on Sunday. Tsunami as high as 1.2 meters were observed along the Pacific coast and elsewhere following the massive earthquake struck Chile the day before, according to Japanese media reports.

Japan's Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding (TYO:7003) and Inbicon, the Danish pioneer of cellulosic ethanol technology, have signed a license agreement for the Inbicon Biomass Refinery technology. The agreement grants Mitsui the right to build a number of biomass refineries in Southeast Asia using Inbicon's technology. Mitsui intends to apply the technology in the palm oil industry, where wastes from palm oil production can be converted into ethanol, solid biofuel for energy production, and animal feed.

China's State Council, the Cabinet, has approved Ping An Insurance (Group) Co. of China Ltd.'s (HKG:318) plan to increase its stake in Shenzhen Development Bank Co. (SHE:000001), reported a Chinese media. But the two parties have not responded to the speculations that Shenzhen Development Bank is likely to be delisted and merge with Ping An Bank.

Toyota Motor (TYO:7203) president Akio Toyoda planned to visit Beijing to hold a press conference Monday to address quality concerns. He is also expected to meet with high-level government officials to remind them of the company's commitment to safety and quality.

Singapore-based Wilmar International (SIN:F34), the World's largest palm oil producer, reported a better-than-expected 18 percent rise in fourth quarter net profit as a global economic recovery drove commodities prices higher. The company derives about half of its total sales from China, and owns oil palm plantations and runs crushing and refining plants in Indonesia and Malaysia.


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