Asian shares rise slightly as Nikkei turns higher

BANGKOK (AP) — Most Asian share markets posted tentative gains Tuesday following a U.S. holiday and an unimpressive start to efforts by Europe to invigorate its response to a protracted debt crisis.

Oil prices wallowed near $91 a barrel while in currencies, the dollar was down against the yen and the euro.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock average added 0.4 percent to 10,539.10 after opening the session lower.

Automakers including Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. advanced. Elpida Memory Inc., Japan’s biggest semiconductor maker, jumped 3 percent after the Nikkei financial daily reported that the company plans to raise prices of chips used in personal computers.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 0.8 percent to 24,339.27 and South Korea’s Kospi advanced 0.4 percent to 2,109.04. A solid showing by banking shares sent Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 up 0.8 percent to 4,802.60.

Benchmarks in China, Taiwan and Singapore also advanced while shares in New Zealand and the Philippines fell.

Notable individual gainers included Aluminum Corp. of China Ltd., which surged more than 6 percent in Hong Kong. The company said in a statement Monday that it expects to return to profits this year.

While most benchmarks in Asia were up, the picture was less certain in Europe.

The finance ministers of the 17 countries met in Brussels on Monday but acknowledged being weeks away from agreeing on how to overhaul a 750 billion ($1 trillion) bailout fund to better deal with the region’s crippling debt burden.

The crisis has already forced Greece and Ireland to implement painful budget cuts in exchange for multibillion dollar bailouts. Harsh remedies prescribed by governments have provoked protests and strikes in Portugal, Greece and elsewhere.

“They really have no political solution to that. Every time there are cuts, they are met with strikes,” said Tey Tze Ming, a trader at Saxo Capital Markets in Singapore. “These worries are not going to go away. We are not really positive on equities there at the moment.”

Meanwhile, investors across the region were waiting to see how Wall Street reacts to Apple’s announcement that CEO Steve Jobs would be taking a medical leave of absence. U.S. financial markets were closed Monday for a holiday.

The news could hammer the company’s shares and overall sentiment when trading opens for the week. The company made the announcement a day before its quarterly earnings report.

In Europe on Monday, investors reacted sharply. Apple shares closed in Frankfurt 6.6 percent lower at 243 euros ($323.02).

But some analysts believe the company can function successfully even without Jobs in the corner office full-time — even with Apple at the forefront of a new revolution in personal computing.

In currencies, the dollar fell to 82.50 yen from 82.72 yen late Monday. The euro rose to $1.3318 from $1.3291.

Benchmark oil for February delivery was down 40 cents at $91.13 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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