Stock markets muted amid Good Friday holiday

AP News
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Posted: Apr 22, 2011 4:33 AM
Stock markets muted amid Good Friday holiday

Shares in Japan's top automakers got a boost Friday after a key auto parts supplier announced the early resumption of some operations that had been halted after last month's devastating earthquake.

Renesas Electronics Corp., a key provider of microprocessors that control brakes, engines and transmissions, said operations would resume June 15 at its Naka factory in Ibaraki prefecture, where production was temporarily halted after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that wreaked havoc in northeastern Japan.

Renesas had earlier said it intended to restart partial manufacturing at the Naka factory in July. The company said it is working "with more than 2,000 additional support workers dispatched from outside Renesas Electronics companies to help speed up the resumption of production as much as possible."

"The schedule assumes a stable source of electric power and no further damage from subsequent aftershocks," the company said.

The news helped lift shares in Japan's automotive sector, which was badly hobbled after the earthquake spawned a mammoth tsunami that slammed into Japan's northeastern coast, killing some 27,000 people. The region was host to a vast network of auto parts suppliers that were wiped off the map in the disaster.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index closed marginally down, less than 4 points, to 9,682.21, with automakers posting gains. Toyota Motor Corp. rose 3.1 percent, Honda Motor Corp. bumped up by 2.3 percent and Nissan Motor Corp. jumped 3.6 percent.

However, some major Japanese exporters slipped as the yen gained against the U.S. dollar. Canon Inc. dropped 1.4 percent, and Sony Corp. was down 1.2 percent.

The Nikkei was one of a handful of exchanges open in Asia on the Good Friday holiday.

South Korea's Kospi index was flat at 2,197.82, and mainland China's Shanghai Composite Index slid 0.5 percent to 3,010.52 as investors booked profits following a week of gains. The smaller Shenzhen Composite Index was down 0.6 percent to 1,274.73. Taiwan's TAIEX rose 0.1 percent to 8,969.43.

Markets in Hong Kong, India, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore were closed.

On Wall Street, strong earnings from large companies like Apple Inc. and UnitedHealth lifted stocks broadly higher Thursday. Gains were spread across the market, with all 10 company groups that make up the S&P 500 index closing the day with gains.

The Dow rose 52 points to close at 12,506. The S&P 500 rose 7 points to 1,337. The Nasdaq rose 18 points to 2,820.

The euro rose $1.4560 from $1.4544 late Thursday in New York. The dollar was unchanged at 81.90 yen.

Markets will be closed on Friday in the U.S. and most of Europe for the Good Friday holiday. Oil was untraded in Asia due to the holiday.