Asian stocks rose for the first time in four days amid a rally in telecommunication shares and as investors weighed prospects for stimulus after China’s economic growth slowed to the weakest pace in six quarters.
SoftBank Corp. (9984), which owns about 37 percent of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., surged 8.5 percent in Tokyo after Alibaba posted its fifth straight gain in quarterly profit. Phone companies climbed the most of the 10 industry groups on the benchmark regional gauge. Yahoo Japan Corp. advanced 4.3 percent. Iluka Resources Ltd. slumped 6.8 percent in Sydney after zircon output missed estimates.
Investors are “slightly more positive after this set of Chinese data,” Peter Esho, Sydney-based chief market analyst at Invast Securities Co., said by phone. “The big thing is that there’s an absence of real negative news. The wildcard is still that the Chinese announce some form of stimulus in the next couple of weeks.’
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index added 0.9 percent to 138.38 at 6:23 p.m. in Hong Kong, with all 10 industry groups rising. The measure closed yesterday at its lowest in two weeks, taking its loss this year to 2.9 percent.
South Korea’s Kospi index was unchanged and New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index advanced 0.3 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index added 0.6 percent as BHP Billiton Ltd. reported third-quarter iron-ore output gained 23 percent, beating expectations. BHP’s stock rose 0.4 percent to A$37.94.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index and the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of mainland shares listed in Hong Kong added 0.1 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.2 percent. Singapore’s Straits Times Index climbed 0.2 percent and Taiwan’s Taiex index advanced 0.1 percent.
China’s economy expanded an annualized 7.4 percent in the three months through March, slowing from 7.7 percent in the last quarter of 2013. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News had expected a 7.3 percent advance. Industrial production increased 8.8 percent in March from a year earlier, less than projected, while first-quarter fixed-asset investment trailed estimates.
‘‘The GDP number is not bad,” Zhiwei Zhang, Hong Kong-based chief economist for China at Nomura Holdings Inc., told Bloomberg TV. “Industrial production improved a little bit and there will be a debate in the market as to whether this is a temporary recovery or a sustainable recovery. We think it’s temporary. Momentum will again slow in the second quarter and this is mostly driven by the property sector slowdown.”
Standard & Poor’s 500 Index futures rose 0.5 percent today after the U.S. equities gauge yesterday gained 0.7 percent as earnings from Coca-Cola Co. and Johnson & Johnson overshadowed concerns that tensions in Ukraine are worsening.
Iluka sank 6.8 percent to A$9.11, its biggest decline since July 2012. The Perth-based firm reported first-quarter zircon output of 77,800 tons compared with the median analyst forecast for 87,000 tons.
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