Asian stocks rose, with the benchmark regional equities gauge heading for its longest winning streak in seven weeks, as investors speculated stimulus measures will boost economic growth and increase profits.
BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP), the world’s largest miner, climbed 1.7 percent to advance for a fourth day in Sydney, its longest winning streak in more than two months. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc., Japan’s biggest bank, rose to the highest since May 2009 as speculation grew that Bank of Japan stimulus measures will boost earnings at financial-services firms. Billabong International Ltd. (BBG) slumped 27 percent after the Australian surfwear maker said it will hold talks on a A$287 million ($300 million) takeover deal.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index (MXAP) advanced 0.9 percent to 135.97 as of 8:36 p.m. in Tokyo. More than two stocks rose for each that fell. The measure has risen for three days as Chinese economic reports point to reduced chances of further tightening in the world’s second-largest economy.
“The global economic recovery is gradually coming through and most of the big systemic risks are behind us,” Daphne Roth, Singapore-based head of Asia equity research at ABN Amro Private Bank, which oversees about $207 billion, said in a telephone interview. “The cycle has become more normalized and it will be good for Asia as a whole. Central-bank policy makers have done their part and that’s good for equities.”
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who succeeded Wen Jiabao last month in a once-a-decade leadership transition, has signaled his government will take steps this year to loosen state control over interest rates as part of efforts to sustain economic growth.
China’s imports rose by a better-than-forecast 14.1 percent in March while export growth slowed to 10 percent from a year earlier, the customs administration said today in Beijing. Weaker trade growth adds to Li’s challenges in sustaining a rebound while he tries to limit nontraditional banking and damp housing prices.
“The tail risks have dissipated and that gives you some form of optimism when you look at the growth numbers,” said Tim Schroeders, who helps manage $1 billion at Pengana Capital Ltd. in Melbourne. “There’s reason to be optimistic, but don’t get too ahead of yourself. The transition under the new leadership in China is progressing well.”
Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average (NKY) gained 0.7 percent, to the highest level since August 2008. The broader Topix Index rose 1.7 percent, a sixth day of gains, for the longest winning streak this year. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 0.2 percent and Singapore’s Straits Times Index slipped 0.2 percent.
South Korea’s Kospi index added 0.8 percent, Taiwan’s Taiex Index rose 0.3 percent and New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index advanced 0.6 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index (HSI) gained 0.8 percent and China’s Shanghai Composite closed little changed.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index, the benchmark regional equities gauge, climbed the past five months on speculation Japan would unleash more stimulus and amid signs the U.S. economy is recovering. That left the measure trading at 13.7 times average estimated earnings yesterday compared with 14.2 for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and 12.4 times for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Economic conditions in the world’s largest economy are far from where Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke would like, he said April 8. The Federal Open Market Committee releases minutes of its March 19-20 meeting today. After that meeting, Bernanke said further gains in the U.S. labor market were needed for the Fed to consider reducing its monetary easing.
Futures on the S&P 500 Index (SPX) gained 0.2 percent. The gauge rose 0.4 percent yesterday and the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 0.4 percent to 14,673.46, its highest-ever closing level, on optimism over earnings and as commodities gained after a report showing China’s inflation rate slowed.
Raw-material firms and Japanese banks contributed most to gains on the MSCI Asia Pacific Index. BHP Billiton advanced 1.7 percent to A$33.68. Rio Tinto Group, the world’s second-largest mining company, added 2.7 percent to A$58.28 in Sydney after saying it is making progress in talks about a copper project in Mongolia.
Mitsubishi UFJ rose 5 percent to 655 yen and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc. (8316) advanced 6.7 percent to 4,620 yen in Tokyo.
Billabong lost 27 percent to 53.5 Australian cents. That’s an 11 percent discount to the 60 Australian-cents non-binding offer that Billabong is discussing with a group including Sycamore Partners Management, and values the retailer at less than the inventory in its stores and warehouses as of Dec. 31.
Cosmo Oil Co. (5007) surged 11 percent to 220 yen in Tokyo after the Nikkei newspaper reported profit at the refiner may increase 50 percent.