Asian stocks outside Japan rose as comments from U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and economic reports across the region fueled speculation that central banks will boost stimulus measures. Japanese stocks fell as the yen rose against most of its major counterparts.
James Hardie Industries SE (JHX), a building-materials supplier that gets 67 percent of sales from the U.S., rose 1.2 percent in Sydney. Shimao Property Holdings Ltd. paced gains among Chinese developers on a report the nation should do more to help economic growth. Samsung Card Co. soared 15 percent in Seoul after the credit-card issuer said it will buy back shares. Canon Inc. (7751), a Japanese camera maker that gets 80 percent of sales from exports, lost 1.7 percent.
The MSCI Asia Pacific excluding Japan Index gained 0.2 percent to 418.82 as of 7:10 p.m. in Tokyo with about three stocks gaining for every two that fell. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index was little changed at 117.69. Shares rose after Bernanke said on Aug. 31 that a third round of asset purchases, known as quantitative easing, is an option to fight unemployment.
“The market has held out pretty well on the expectation of QE and I guess there’s some confirmation over the weekend that may happen,” said Donald Williams, chief investment officer at Sydney-based Platypus Asset Management Ltd. that manages about $1 billion. “It’s going to be difficult for the market to keep rallying on the promise of QE and other measures without some improvement in the data.”
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index lost 0.8 percent in August, the first monthly drop since May, on concern policy makers won’t introduce enough stimulus measures to revive the global economy. Stocks in the Asian benchmark were valued at 12.3 times estimated earnings on average as of last week, compared with 13.6 times for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and 11.6 times for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index added 0.4 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.6 percent. South Korea’s Kospi index added 0.4 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 climbed 0.3 percent. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index gained 0.1 percent.
Futures on the S&P 500 (SPXL1) were little changed today, with U.S. markets closed for a holiday. The index advanced 0.5 percent in New York on Aug. 31, capping its third monthly gain, after Bernanke raised prospects for quantitative easing. Two rounds of large-scale asset purchases have failed to bring the unemployment level below 8 percent more than three years into the recovery.
In China, the Purchasing Managers Index fell to 49.2 in August from 50.1 in July, the National Bureau of Statistics and China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing said Sept. 1. It’s the first time in nine months that the measure has fallen below the 50 level that signals contraction.
A separate report released today by HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics showed China’s manufacturing contracted last month at the fastest pace since March 2009.
China should “decisively” expand the strength of its policy fine-tuning based on economic developments and market changes, according to a front-page commentary published in China’s People’s Daily newspaper.
Shimao Property gained 3.3 percent to HK$12.08. China Resources Land Ltd. climbed 4.8 percent to HK$15.70.
Shares fell earlier as data pointed to an economic slowdown in Asia. In South Korea, inflation slowed to the weakest pace in 12 years last month. Australia’s retail sales fell in July by the most in almost two years. In New Zealand, a gauge of the country’s terms of trade dropped for a fourth consecutive quarter.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average fell 0.6 percent as the yen rose against 14 of its 16 major counterparts and a report showed companies’ capital spending rose less than expected. Canon fell 1.7 percent to 2,550 yen. Mitsubishi Motors Corp. (7211), an automaker that gets 27 percent of its sales from Europe, slid 4.1 percent to 70 yen.
Samsung Card surged 15 percent to 41,200 won, the biggest gain on the MSCI Asia Pacific Index. It will buy back 7.1 million shares, or 5.8 percent of its outstanding stock, through Nov. 30 and cancel them when the buyback is complete, the company said in a regulatory filing on Aug. 31.
Among stocks that fell, Sharp Corp. declined 6.1 percent to 186 yen after the Nikkei newspaper reported that the Japanese television maker cut the price of a stake it’s selling to Taiwan’s Foxconn Technology Group. Standard & Poor’s also cut Sharp’s long-term and short-term credit ratings on Aug. 31 to speculative grades. Foxconn Technology Co. added 2.6 percent to NT$117.
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