China gov’t measures boost shares

AP and AFP

AP and AFP–Chinese shares jumped Thursday after the government announced new corporate support policies aimed at boosting the economy, in thin trade with most Asian markets closed for the Christmas holiday. Shanghai jumped 3.36 percent, while Shenzhen gained 1.44 percent. Markets in Hong Kong, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, Malaysia, South Korea, India, the Philippines and Indonesia were closed for public holidays. Other Asian markets slipped, with Bangkok falling 1.32 percent. This came despite a positive lead from Wall Street, which edged Wednesday to a fresh record in a holiday-shortened session, one day after topping 18,000 points for the first time ever. Tokyo stocks fell 0.31 percent morning after five days of gains, with the market dragged down by a stronger yen in thin holiday trade. The Nikkei 225 index at the Tokyo Stock Exchange slipped 54.64 points to 17,799.59 by the break, while the Topix index of all first-section issues was down 0.29 percent, or 4.12 points, at 1,421.90. ��Caution has grown over the fast pace of rises in Japanese stocks,�� Okasan Online Securities said in a note. The benchmark Nikkei had gained more than six percent over the past five trading days on confidence in the U.S. economy and the yen’s drop against the dollar, which is a plus for Japanese exporters. In Tokyo trade, Japan Airlines tumbled 4.70 percent to 3,545.0 yen after the leading Nikkei business daily reported that Japan’s government decided to scrap a corporate tax waiver previously granted to the once-bankrupt firm. Late Wednesday China’s State Council, or cabinet, announced preferential policies for Chinese manufacturers, including a promise to extend financial support, especially to large-scale equipment makers, to expand their exports. Among the announced measures were also a promise to reduce red tape for Chinese companies listing on foreign stock markets as well as a loosening of restrictions on overseas bond issuance by domestic corporations. The Shanghai index has gained over 20 percent since China announced a surprise interest rate cut in late November, with the market experiencing swings around the symbolic 3,000 mark.

Construction companies rose on expectations for lower costs after the supportive policies in equipment sectors. On the Shanghai market, China Railway Construction Corp. surged by its 10 percent daily limit to 13.74 yuan while China Railway Erju Co. also jumped 10 percent to 15.58 yuan. Insurance companies were among Thursday’s biggest gainers. China Life Insurance Co. jumped in Shanghai by its 10 percent limit to 27.87 yuan while Ping An Insurance (Group) Co. rose 4.45 percent to 64.31 yuan. Major U.S. stock indexes ended mostly higher on Wednesday, with the Dow Jones industrial average adding modestly to its gains a day after closing above 18,000 for the first time.

It was the Dow’s sixth straight gain, coming during a half-day trading session ahead of the Christmas holiday.

Investors welcomed U.S. Labor Department data showing that applications for unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level in seven weeks. The Dow gained 6.04 points Wednesday to close at 18,030.21. That’s up 0.03 percent from a day earlier.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index slipped 0.29 points, or 0.01 percent, to 2,081.88. That’s slightly below the S&P’s most-recent all-time high recorded on Tuesday.