Asian Stocks Advance as the Fed's Bernanke Eases Economic Growth Concerns

Asian stocks rose for the first time in three days after comments from Ben S. Bernanke, the chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, eased investor concerns over the strength of the global economy.

Hyundai Motor Co., which gets 13 percent of its sales in North America, climbed 3 percent in Seoul as Bernanke said the recovery in the world’s largest economy is moving at a “moderate” pace. Newcrest Mining Ltd., Australia’s largest gold producer, jumped 2.9 percent after bullion advanced. Softbank Corp., which has a monopoly on Japanese sales of Apple Inc.’s iPhone device, climbed 2.3 percent after the U.S. company unveiled a new model yesterday.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose 0.3 percent to 109.99 as of 6:22 p.m. in Tokyo. Almost five stocks gained for every four that declined. The gauge slumped yesterday by the most since March 2009 as a comment from a Hungarian official that the country’s economy was in a “grave situation” fueled concern that European debt problems will hurt global growth.

“Bernanke’s comment is positive for the stock market in that he is saying the economy is improving,” said Yoshinori Nagano, a senior strategist at Tokyo-based Daiwa Asset Management Co., which oversees the equivalent of $94 billion. “I don’t think we have to worry about the U.S. economic recovery. It’s unlikely to go wrong.”

South Korea’s Kospi increased 0.8 percent, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index advanced 1.3 percent. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average added 0.2 percent. China’s Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.1 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index rose 0.6 percent, led by property developers as a block of government land was sold in an auction for more than analysts estimated.

U.S. Recovery

New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index fell 1.4 percent after a holiday yesterday, during which the MSCI Asia Pacific Index slumped 3.3 percent. The statistics bureau reported today the country’s manufacturing sales volumes fell in the first quarter.

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index added 0.2 percent. Given the depth of the recession, the recovery in the U.S. economy is “moderate-paced,” Bernanke said at a dinner in Washington, adding that unemployment “is still going to be high for a while.”

Almost 4 of 10 respondents in a global quarterly poll of investors and analysts who are Bloomberg subscribers picked the U.S. as the market presenting the best opportunities in the year ahead. The U.S. has supplanted China and Brazil as the most attractive market for investors, according to the poll.

Hyundai, Nissan

Hyundai Motor, South Korea’s largest automaker, gained 3 percent to 139,000 won. Li & Fung Ltd., a Hong Kong trading company that sells goods to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp., rose 1.6 percent to HK$35.05.

Nissan Motor Co., which gets a third of its sales in North America, advanced 1 percent to 640 yen. Japan’s third-largest carmaker has received 6,000 advance orders for its Leaf electric car in Japan, matching the company’s original sales target for this year, it said on its website.

Concern that a slowdown in the global economy will hurt corporate earnings has dragged down the MSCI Asia Pacific Index by 15 percent from its high this year on April 15. The drop has lowered the average price of the gauge’s companies to 14.1 times estimated profit, near the lowest level since January 2009.

Bernanke, who was speaking during a question-and-answer session in Washington, and his Fed colleagues are due to give updated economic projections when they next meet June 22-23. While the Fed will raise interest rates from a record low before the economy returns to “full employment,” Bernanke said officials don’t know when the process will start.

Metals Demand

“Bernanke has been more cautious about lifting interest rates than investors thought he should be, but he seems to have changed his stance,” said Daiwa Asset’s Nagano. “Markets are reacting to that.”

A measure of material producers in the MSCI Asia Pacific Index jumped 0.5 percent amid speculation metals demand will increase. Rio Tinto Group, the world’s third-largest mining company, rose 1.8 percent to A$66.75 in Sydney. BHP Billiton, the world’s No. 1 mining company, gained 1.3 percent to A$37.02.

Newcrest climbed 2.9 percent to A$33.19 after gold futures in New York advanced 1.9 percent. Zijin Mining Group Co., China’s largest gold producer, rose 1.9 percent to 6.98 yuan in Shanghai. Real Gold Mining Ltd., which owns mines in northern China, surged 4.9 percent to HK$12.48 in Hong Kong.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index’s gauge of telecommunications stocks climbed 1 percent, the most of 10 industry groups.

Land Auction

In Tokyo, Softbank increased 2.3 percent to 2,247 yen after Apple yesterday introduced a thinner iPhone with a sharper screen and video-chat features. Separately, Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. said it will buy 1,300 of Apple’s iPads from Softbank for its sales representatives in Japan.

In Hong Kong, real-estate developers extended gains in the last half hour of trade after the government sold a site in the city’s Ho Man Tin district for HK$10.9 billion ($1.4 billion), beating the HK$8.41 billion median estimate of seven analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News.

Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd., the successful bidder, climbed 2.1 percent to HK$103.80. Cheung Kong (Holdings) Ltd., the city’s No. 2 developer, rose 1.7 percent to HK$87.70.

In Taipei, Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., the world’s largest electronics contract manufacturer, sank 5.1 percent to NT$111.5. The stock was downgraded at Macquarie Group Ltd. and Daiwa Securities Group Inc. on concern the company’s plan to double wages at its southern China factories will hurt earnings.

Hon Hai raised salary levels after at least 10 workers killed themselves this year, prompting labor-rights groups to call the company a “sweatshop” that doesn’t pay employees enough to avoid overtime. The company’s listed unit in Hong Kong, Foxconn International Holdings Ltd., lost 3.2 percent to HK$5.48.

To contact the reporter for this story: Masaki Kondo in Tokyo at mkondo3@bloomberg.net.

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