Asian stocks rose, with a regional benchmark index headed for its biggest monthly rally since September 2010, as Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos said major progress was made in debt-swap talks and Japan’s industrial production grew faster than economists estimated.
Fanuc Corp. (6954), Japan’s top maker of factory robots, added 1 percent. Sumitomo Mitsui Financial (8316) Group Inc., Japan’s second- largest lender by market value, rose 1.5 after saying it will meet its full-year profit forecast. ICICI Bank Ltd. (ICICIBC) climbed 5.9 percent in Mumbai after the Indian lender posted earnings that beat estimates. Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co., the world’s third-biggest shipyard, jumped 6.5 percent after winning a contract from Kuwait Oil Tanker Co.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index increased 0.7 percent to 122.96 as of 8:05 p.m. in Tokyo, with two shares rising for each that fell. The measure has risen 8 percent this month, the biggest such advance since September 2010, amid bets China will ease lending curb, the U.S. economy is improving and Europe is containing its debts crisis.
“We’ve seen some positive signs in Europe,” said Angus Gluskie, who oversees about $350 million as managing director at White Funds Management in Sydney. “We’re on a cusp of a Greek bond restructuring. They will agree on it but there will be some debate in the meantime.”
Greece aims to complete debt-swap talks with bondholders by the end of this week, Papademos told reporters after the European Union summit in Brussels. Papademos said he is “strongly committed” to reaching a deal. The country faces a 14.5 billion-euro bond payment ($19 billion) on March 20.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average rose 0.1 percent. South Korea’s Kospi Index gained 0.8 percent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index climbed 1.1 percent. China’s Shanghai Composite Index (SHCOMP) added 0.3 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index lost 0.2 percent.
Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index advanced 0.6 percent today. The gauge slid 0.3 percent in New York yesterday as a report showed U.S. consumer spending stalled in December.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index gained 7.2 percent this year through yesterday, compared with increases of 4.4 percent by the S&P 500 and 3.3 percent by the Stoxx Europe 600 Index. Stocks in the Asian benchmark are valued at 1.3 times book value. That compares with 2.1 times for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index in the U.S. and 1.4 times for the Europe Stoxx 600 Index in Europe.
A gauge of manufacturing shares led the advance among the 10 industry groups in the MSCI Asian gauge. Japanese machinery makers rallied as the nation’s factory production rose 4 percent in December from the previous month, the biggest increase in seven months.
Fanuc gained 1 percent to 12,810 yen in Tokyo. Hitachi Construction Machinery Co., which makes bulldozers and crawler cranes, climbed 2.9 percent to 1,510 yen. Komatsu Ltd. (6301), Japan’s biggest maker of construction equipment, rose 1 percent to 2,149 yen.
Sumitomo Mitsui Financial added 1.5 percent to 2,425 yen. The lender yesterday maintained its full-year earnings forecast of 500 billion yen ($6.6 billion) and said it will buy back as much as 80 billion yen of stock.
“The bank is in a relatively good position now where it can selectively offer loans to companies and projects outside of Japan to improve lending profitability,” said Yoshinobu Yamada, a Tokyo-based analyst at Deutsche Bank AG.
State Bank of India (SBIN) climbed 3.9 percent to 2,061.6 rupees in Mumbai as the nation’s biggest lender by assets said it will receive a 79 billion-rupee ($1.6 billion) capital infusion from the government.
ICICI Bank advanced 5.9 percent to 902.15 rupees after saying third-quarter profit rose 20 percent to 17.3 billion rupees, surpassing analyst estimates.
Australia’s electronics retailers rallied as plans by Woolworths Ltd. (WOW) to sell its Dick Smith chain stoked speculation of industry consolidation. Woolworths will sell its consumer electronics unit after receiving unsolicited approaches for the business, Australia’s largest retailer said today.
JB Hi-Fi Ltd. (JBH), Australia’s second-biggest electronics retailer, climbed 6.6 percent to A$12.60. Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd., the largest, added 0.5 percent to A$2.06. Woolworths rose 1.4 percent to A$24.79.
Advantest Corp. (6857), the world’s largest maker of memory-chip testers, surged 7.10 percent to 875 yen in Tokyo. Daiwa Securities Group Inc. raised the stock’s rating to “neutral” from “underperform,” saying the company may return to profit on rising demand from South Korea and Taiwan.
Daewoo Shipbuilding jumped 6.5 percent to 27,850 won in Seoul. The company said it won an order, valued at $560 million, to build four 317,300-ton very large crude carriers and one product vessel for Kuwait Oil Tanker.
Among stocks that fell, Angang Steel Co., the largest Hong Kong-traded steelmaker, tumbled 11 percent to HK$5.58, the biggest decline in the MSCI Asia Pacific Index. (MXAP) The Liaoning province, China-based company said it will post a net loss of 2.15 billion ($340 million) for 2011, compared with a profit of 2.04 billion yuan the year before.
Canon Inc. (7751), the world’s No. 1 camera maker, sank 4.2 percent to 3,290 yen after forecasting annual profit that missed analyst estimates and saying it Tsuneji Uchida will resign as president and chief operating officer.
Fujifilm Holdings Corp. (4901), which makes cameras, printers and medical devices, declined 6.9 percent to 1,807 yen, after cutting its estimate for annual operating profit. Separately, the company yesterday proposed combining its X-ray and ultrasound technology with the medical businesses of scandal- rocked Olympus Corp.
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