Car makers pull Japanese shares down; M&A activities dominate Australian market

<p>Shares in Japan’s car manufacturing companies continued to trade weaker, dragging the overall Nikkei Index lower today. Citigroup Inc has downgraded Japan’s automotive sector, citing […]</p>

Shares in Japan’s car manufacturing companies continued to trade weaker, dragging the overall Nikkei Index lower today.

Citigroup Inc has downgraded Japan’s automotive sector, citing production cuts and supply problems in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that hit the country last month. 

Toyota Motor Corp, Honda Motor Co and Nissan Motor Co, the country’s top three car makers declined at least 2% after Citigroup cut its rating on Japan’s auto industry, saying investors haven’t prices in the impact on earnings from the earthquake and tsunami that struck on March 11. 

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index swung between gains and losses as Chinese automakers gained after the nation’s car sales increased, while the city’s developers dropped after home prices fell. 

Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd, a unit of the Chinese automaker that owns Volvo Cars, jumped 2% after China’s exports topped economists’ estimates last month, boosting optimism in Asia’s fastest-growing major economy.

In Australia, local shares are trading slightly higher with the S&P/ASX200 up 0.5% in early afternoon. The day’s trade is dominated by merger speculation between BHP and Woodside (WPL). BHP denied the speculation, saying it does not comment on market rumours and the market is fully informed on all material information. 

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