Asian stocks rose ahead of U.S. housing market data that may add to signs the world’s largest economy is recovering, and as Japanese exporters gained on a weaker yen. Alibaba.com Ltd. (1688) surged in Hong Kong.
Toyota Motor Corp. (7203), which gets almost 30 percent of its sales from North America, rose 1.8 percent in Tokyo as the yen slid to 80 against the dollar for the first time since Aug. 4. Alibaba, China’s No. 1 e-commerce web portal, jumped 43 percent after its parent offered to privatize the company. Agile Property Holdings Ltd., a Chinese developer, jumped 7.2 percent in Hong Kong on speculation Shanghai will relax property curbs.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index (MXAP) gained 0.1 percent to 127.8 as of 8:48 p.m. in Tokyo. The gauge rose the past nine weeks, the longest such streak since December 2005, amid signs the U.S. economy is improving, bets China will ease monetary policy and optimism Europe will contain the region’s debt crisis. The shares trade at 14.8 times estimated earnings, up from 12.6 on Dec. 16, when the streak began.
“Strength in the U.S. economy and emerging markets’ monetary policies leading to soft-landings are the two pillars supporting the market,” said Shintaro Takeuchi, portfolio investment group manager at Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co., which oversees $109 billion in assets. “Greece remains a risk factor, but that has already been priced in and it won’t have much impact on the market unless it actually defaults. Stocks are likely to be solid for the next few months.”
Small Cap Streak
Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average (NKY) rose 1 percent after swinging between gains and losses. A gauge of smaller companies listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange rose for a 27th straight day, its longest streak of gains since 1961. Kagetsuenkanko Co., which manages resort hotels and restaurants, rose the most in the measure of companies on Tokyo Stock Exchange’s so-called second section, advancing 48 percent to 92 yen.
Toyota rose 1.8 percent to 3,380 yen, and Nissan Motor Co. (7201), Japan’s third-biggest carmaker by market value, climbed 2.3 percent to 814 yen after the yen fell to 80.08 against the dollar today during market open. The yen weakened against the greenback on speculation accelerating U.S. economic growth will reduce the case for more quantitative easing from the Federal Reserve.
U.S. sales of previously owned homes probably rose last month to the highest level since May 2010, based on the median estimate from economists surveyed by Bloomberg. In Europe, a second bailout for Greece may not be enough to end the debt crisis, Bank of England Deputy Governor Charlie Bean said yesterday.
South Korea’s Kospi Index rose 0.2 percent and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index climbed less than 0.1 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index (HSI) gained 0.3 percent. China’s manufacturing may shrink for a fourth month in February as Europe’s sovereign-debt crisis damps exports and the housing market cools, a survey of purchasing managers indicated.
China’s Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.9 percent after the Shanghai Securities News reported Shanghai, the nation’s financial center, eased some home purchase restrictions.
Agile jumped 7.2 percent to HK$10.60 in Hong Kong, while Evergrande Real Estate Group Ltd. (3333), a mainland developer, increased 5.1 percent to HK$4.91.
Crude oil futures slid as much as 0.6 percent today from a nine-month high, heading for the first decline in more than a week as prices approached a technical resistance level. Oil for April delivery yesterday advanced $2.65, or 2.6 percent, to $106.25, the highest settlement since May 4.
Some shares declined amid concern oil near a nine-month high will crimp economic growth. Kumho Petro Chemical Co. (011780), a Korean maker of synthetic rubber and chemicals, sank 4.3 percent to 167,000 won in Seoul. Air China Ltd., the world’s biggest airline by market value, fell 1 percent to HK$5.96 in Hong Kong on speculation fuel costs will rise.
“If oil prices remain high it will damp economic outlooks and weigh on stocks,” said Tokio Marine’s Takeuchi.
Of 487 companies in the Asia-Pacific gauge that have reported net income since Jan. 9, more than half have fallen short of analysts’ estimates and profit has dropped 58 percent on average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That compares with the U.S., where net income has grown an average of 5.3 percent for 399 Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (SPX) companies that have reported.
Alibaba soared 43 percent to HK$13.20, the biggest gain on the MSCI Asia Pacific Index, after its parent company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. bid as much as HK$19.6 billion ($2.5 billion) to buy out minority shareholders.
OneSteel Ltd. (OST), an Australian steelmaker, surged 16 percent to 95 Australian cents in Sydney, extending yesterday’s jump after saying it’s switching focus to iron ore away from its loss-making steel unit.
Among stocks that fell, Wilmar International Ltd. (WIL), the world’s No. 1 palm-oil processing company, sank 11 percent to S$5.22 in Singapore after the company said fourth-quarter profit rose 57 percent from a year earlier to $500 million. That compares with the $519.8 million average estimate of six analysts compiled by Bloomberg.
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