Asia stocks muted amid Good Friday holiday

BANGKOK — Japan’s top automakers helped lead the Nikkei 225 index out of negative territory 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 early at its Naka factory in Ibaraki prefecture, where production was temporarily halted after the March 11 quake and tsunami that wreaked havoc along Japan’s northeastern coast.

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.”

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index rose 0.3 percent to 9,713.94, with automakers posting major gains. Toyota Motor Corp. rose 3 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 US dollar. Canon Inc. dropped 1.3 percent and Sony Corp. was down 0.6 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 2,198.30, and mainland China’s Shanghai Composite Index was down 0.6 percent to 3,007.63 as investors booked profits following a week of gains. The smaller Shenzhen Composite Index was down 0.7 percent to 1,273.01. 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 $1.4577 from $1.4544 late Thursday in New York. The dollar dropped to 81.85 yen from 81.90 yen.

Oil was untraded in Asia due to the holiday -BBC