Asian Stocks Advance as U.S. Jobs Data Boosts Economic Optimism

Asian stocks rose, with a regional benchmark index set to extend its longest streak of weekly advances since 2010, after U.S. unemployment unexpectedly fell, boosting the earnings outlook for Asian exporters.

Nikon Corp., a maker of cameras and lenses that gets more than a quarter of its revenue from North America, jumped 11 percent in Tokyo after raising its full-year operating profit forecast. BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s No. 1 mining company, gained 1.6 percent in Sydney after commodity prices increased. Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. (601288), the nation’s third-biggest lender by market value, dropped 2 percent amid concern that a worsening of Europe’s crisis will hurt China’s economic growth.

“There’s a modestly constructive outlook for share markets,” said Andrew Pease, Sydney-based chief investment strategist for the Asia-Pacific region at Russell Investment Group, which manages about $150 billion. “In the second half of last year, talk was all about whether the U.S. will go back into a recession. Now I think talk will be about what will be the strength of the recovery in the U.S. That’s an important shift in the balance of risk.”

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index climbed 0.4 percent to 124.84 as of 6:39 p.m. in Tokyo, paring an earlier gain of 1 percent. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average gained 1.1 percent, while the broader Topix Index advanced 1.2 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index increased 1.1 percent.

South Korea’s Kospi Index and China’s Shanghai Composite Index were little changed. Singapore’s Straits Times Index rose 0.8 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 0.2 percent, reversing its gains.

U.S. Futures

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 0.5 percent today. The index advanced 1.5 percent in New York on Feb. 3, capping a fifth consecutive weekly rally, after Labor Department data showed payrolls increased by 243,000 in January, the most since April. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists was for an increase of 140,000. The unemployment rate dropped to 8.3 percent, the lowest level since February 2009.

Asian exporters gained. Nikon surged 11 percent to 2,064 yen, the second-steepest gain in the MSCI Asia Pacific Index, after raising its full-year operating profit forecast by 7.5 percent.

Panasonic Corp. (6752), a Japanese electronics company that receives almost half its sales abroad, climbed 6.3 percent to 637 yen, the biggest increase in more than 10 months, after saying profit in the year beginning April 1 may recover following a record loss. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. maintained a “buy” rating on the stock on expectation the company’s earnings will improve.

Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s largest carmaker by market value, added 3 percent to 2,986 yen. Samsung Electronics Co., South Korea’s biggest exporter of consumer electronics, rose 0.8 percent to 1.074 million won in Seoul. HSBC Holdings Plc, a lender that gets a fifth of its revenue from North America, increased 1.6 percent to HK$67.90 in Hong Kong.

Year-to-Date

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index gained 9.2 percent this year through Feb. 3, compared with a 6.9 percent advance by the S&P 500 and an 8.2 percent gain by the Stoxx Europe 600 Index. Stocks in the Asian benchmark were valued at 13.8 times estimated earnings on average at the last close, compared with 12.9 times for the S&P 500 and 10.9 times for the Stoxx 600.

Commodity shares advanced after the London Metal Exchange Index of prices for six industrial metals including copper and aluminum rose 2.5 percent on Feb. 3, while crude for March delivery gained 1.5 percent in New York. The Thomson Reuters/Jefferies CRB Index of raw materials added 1.1 percent on Feb. 3.

BHP rose 1.6 percent to A$38.21 in Sydney. Rio Tinto Group, the world’s No. 3 miner by market value, advanced 2.6 percent to A$72.30 after the U.K.-based Sunday Times, without citing anyone, said the company is expected to boost its dividend by as much 40 percent. Noble Group Ltd. (NOBL), a Hong Kong-based commodities supplier, climbed 3.2 percent to S$1.44 in Singapore.

China Growth Threat

Among stocks that fell, Agricultural Bank of China slid 2 percent to HK$3.84 in Hong Kong. Shimao Property Holdings Ltd. (813), a mainland developer, dropped 0.5 percent to HK$8.73.

China’s economic expansion would be cut almost in half if Europe’s debt crisis worsens, the International Monetary Fund said. Based on its “downside” forecast for the global economy, China’s growth could drop by as much as 4 percentage points from the fund’s current projection, the organization said in a report released today by its China office in Beijing.

Hanwha Corp., a petrochemicals importer and exporter, dropped 4.6 percent to 37,000 won in Seoul after the company said some executives were indicted by prosecutors over breach- of-duty allegations. The shares were the fourth-most actively traded by value in the MSCI Asia Pacific Index.

Tokyo Electron Ltd., a semiconductor-equipment maker, slumped 8.2 percent to 4,040 yen in Tokyo, the biggest drop in the MSCI Asia Pacific Index, after its net income for the nine months ended Dec. 31 tumbled 47 percent from a year earlier.

To contact the reporters on this story: Kana Nishizawa in Hong Kong at knishizawa5@bloomberg.net; Yoshiaki Nohara in Tokyo at ynohara1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nick Gentle at ngentle2@bloomberg.net

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