Asian stocks rose, with the regional benchmark index snapping a three-day losing streak, after Japan’s economy shrank less than the government initially estimated, U.S. employers increased hiring and more investors joined a Greek debt swap.
Toyota Motor Corp. (7203), Asia’s biggest carmaker by market value, rose 2.6 percent in Tokyo. Esprit Holdings Ltd. (330), a clothier that counts Europe as its biggest market, added 5.6 percent in Hong Kong. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. (8306), Japan’s top lender, advanced 2.7 percent after U.S. banks gained on a report the Federal Reserve is considering a new type of bond-purchase program. LG Innotek Co. paced gains among suppliers to Apple Inc., which yesterday introduced a new iPad tablet.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index (TPX) added 1.4 percent to 126.11 as of 7:42 p.m. in Tokyo, with five stocks rising for each that fell. Nine out of 10 industry groups in the measure advanced.
“Data over the last couple of months certainly showed improved momentum in the U.S. economy,” said Belinda Allen, senior investment analyst at Colonial First State Global Asset Management in Sydney, which oversees about $145 billion. “There has been improvement in the labor market.”
The Nikkei 225 Stock Average rose 2 percent after a report Japan’s economy shrank less than the government initially estimated last quarter. Trading volume on the gauge was 17 percent above its 100-day average.
South Korea’s Kospi Index gained 0.9 percent after the central bank refrained from raising its benchmark seven-day repurchase rate. The decision was predicted by all 16 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 0.7 percent even after a report showed employers unexpectedly cut workers in February. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index rose 0.3 percent in Wellington after the central bank held its key lending rate at 2.5 percent.
Options on the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of 40 mainland companies listed in Hong Kong cost the most since the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. when compared with contracts on U.S. stocks. The difference, or skew, shows investors are increasingly bearish on the index after it surged as much as 46 percent since October and China this week cut its economic growth target.
Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (SPXL1) rose 0.8 percent today. The gauge advanced 0.7 percent in New York yesterday after ADP Employer Services said U.S. companies added 216,000 workers in February. The report came two days before the Labor Department releases its monthly jobs data.
Toyota climbed 2.6 percent to 3,330 yen in Tokyo. James Hardie Industries SE (JHX), an Australian supplier of building materials that gets almost 70 percent of sales from the U.S., rose 2.2 percent to A$7.31.
Optimism about Greece’s debt swap pushed stocks higher. Investors with at least 58 percent of the Greek bonds eligible for the nation’s debt swap have so far indicated they’ll participate, putting the country on the verge of the biggest sovereign restructuring in history.
Esprit gained 5.6 percent to HK$18.24, and Nintendo Co. (7974), a Japanese maker of video-game players that gets one third of its sales in Europe, rose 1.8 percent to 11,380 yen.
Financial stocks rose the most among the 10 industry groups on the MSCI Asia Pacific Index after the Wall Street Journal said the Fed is considering a strategy that would allow it to undertake another round of quantitative easing, or bond buying, while lowering the risk of inflation.
“There’s general confusion about what the Fed’s views are,” Colonial’s Allen said. “I think it’s unlikely that they will do any more QE in the near term if the labor market continues to heal.”
Mitsubishi UFJ added 2.7 percent to 415 yen in Tokyo. National Australia Bank Ltd. (NAB), the nation’s fourth-biggest lender by market value, gained 1.3 percent to A$23.38.
Apple suppliers gained after the world’s most valuable company unveiled a new iPad designed to help it widen its lead in the tablet computer market. LG Innotek advanced 6.9 percent to 100,500 won, while LG Display Co. rose 2.2 percent to 28,200 won in Seoul. Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. (2317), whose units assemble products for Apple, rose 2.2 percent to NT$101 in Taipei.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index (TPX) gained 9.3 percent this year through yesterday, compared with a 7.6 percent advance by the S&P 500 and a 6.4 percent increase by the Stoxx Europe 600 Index. Stocks in the Asian benchmark are valued at 14.5 times estimated earnings on average, compared with 13 times for the S&P 500 and 10.8 times for the Stoxx 600.
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