Tech rally powers Asian markets to higher close
A rally in heavyweight technology stocks helped some Asian markets to their highest levels in weeks on Thursday after a spate of earnings releases in the United States and Europe fuelled hopes for a turnaround in the battered sector.
Taiwan's benchmark index climbed to a six-month high, while Japan's Nikkei-225 jumped to its highest level in six weeks after better-than-expected earnings releases from technology bellwethers such as Qualcomm and Texas Instruments, as well as positive news from Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp (TSMC), sent investors rushing into the sector.
'There are some concerns out there, but the good news is outweighing the bad news at the moment and clients are putting a little money to work,' said Credit Suisse First Boston vice-president of Asian technology sales Vijay Harjani.
In Japan, the Nikkei climbed 2.09 per cent to 8,790.92, its highest since December 10, after US chipmaker Texas Instruments and wireless technology play Qualcomm both said that Asian sales helped them book quarterly earnings that beat analyst expectations after Wall Street's close on Wednesday.
This, in turn, saw Nasdaq futures gaining during the Asian trading session, giving rise to expectations of a strong opening on Wall Street last night, and further adding to the cheer.
Asia was given a further boost by strong earnings from Europe's technology sector, as STMicroelectronics, the continent's biggest chipmaker, and German technology-focused industrial giant Siemens both beat expectations with their quarterly numbers and reaffirmed their guidance for this year.
Siemens said net income in the three months to December 31 fell 3 per cent to 521 million euros (about HK$4.36 billion) from 538 million euros.
Earnings before interest and taxes rose at nine of the company's 13 units, boosting total operating profit to 604 million euros from 487 million euros in the year-ago period.
Finland's Nokia, the world's largest handset maker, also managed to top analyst expectations with its fourth-quarter profits.
Taiwan's benchmark surged to its highest level since July 23, gaining 1.71 per cent to 5,078.80, also helped by news that regional technology bellwether TSMC has been given preliminary approval to open a factory in China.
'If you throw in the positive newsflow with regards to TSMC and the China fab, you're going to have a rally in the TSMC share price, which propelled regional tech stocks in sympathy,' Mr Harjani said.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index, though lacking South Korea and Taiwan's technology edge, still managed to close up 0.26 per cent at 9,584.70, helped by gains in China Mobile and Hutchison Whampoa.
But analysts warned that the sector was not yet in the clear, noting that results from both Motorola and Nokia were tempered by warnings that market conditions would still be difficult going forwards.
Despite the downbeat outlook, analysts said that, after a disastrous two years for the technology sector, this year should finally give investors something to cheer about.
'I do see money positioning itself in the sector and people are expecting this year to be a better one for technology than last year,' IPO Investment Management fund manager Ryan Fong Yen-hwung said. 'We're not out of the woods yet, but many believe the [technology, media and telecoms] sector will outperform others this year.'