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Asian Stocks Rise as U.S. Data, ECB Program Boost Growth Hopes

Asia’s benchmark stock index rose for a third day as U.S. housing data and an extended emergency loan program from the European Central Bank bolstered confidence in a global economic recovery.

James Hardie Industries SE, the biggest seller of home siding in the U.S., jumped 6.2 percent in Sydney. BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s No. 1 mining company, advanced 0.6 percent after metal prices increased and crude climbed to a two-year high yesterday. Canon Inc., the world’s largest camera maker that gets about a third of its revenue from Europe, climbed 1.5 percent in Tokyo. Samsung Group units advanced in Seoul after announcing a management reshuffle.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index advanced 0.6 percent to 132.78 as of 7:26 p.m. in Tokyo ahead of a U.S. report today that may show employment expanded for a second month. About the same number of stocks rose as fell. The index is on course for its first weekly gain since declining for three straight weeks on concern China will boost anti-inflation measures and amid rising tensions between North and South Korea.

“The economic data is clearly improving,” said Nader Naeimi, a Sydney-based strategist at AMP Capital Investors Ltd., which manages about $93 billion and is a unit of AMP Ltd., Australia’s second-largest asset manager. “U.S. housing is showing signs of life and the employment trend is finally looking encouraging. The easing of European debt concerns is releasing a handbrake on markets.”

Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average was little changed. South Korea’s Kospi Index and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index each climbed 0.4 percent.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 0.6 percent and China’s Shanghai Composite Index was little changed after Xinhua News Agency reported the country will adopt a “prudent” approach to monetary policy from a “moderately loose” stance in place since late 2008.

U.S. Home Sales

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index slipped 0.1 percent today. The index climbed 1.3 percent yesterday in New York, led by financial shares after Goldman Sachs Group Inc. raised its rating on the industry.

James Hardie jumped 6.2 percent to A$6.20 in Sydney, capping five straight days of gains. Techtronic Industries Co., maker of Hoover vacuum cleaners and Ryobi power tools that made 76 percent of its revenue in North America last fiscal year, surged 5.8 percent to HK$9.11 in Hong Kong.

Pending sales of U.S. existing houses jumped by a record 10 percent in October, the National Association of Realtors said yesterday. That compares with a median estimate by 40 economists surveyed by Bloomberg for a 1 percent drop. Separate reports showed claims for jobless benefits over the past month on average dropped to a two-year low, and that November chain-store sales exceeded estimates.

The Asia Pacific gauge surged 1.7 percent yesterday after reports showed U.S. payrolls and manufacturing climbed, while a report this week also showed that China’s manufacturing activity grew at the fastest pace in seven months in November.

‘Positive Surprise’

“The increase in pending home sales was a positive surprise,” said Juichi Wako, a senior strategist at Tokyo-based Nomura Holdings Inc. U.S. employers added 150,000 jobs last month, according to economist projections compiled by Bloomberg before the release today. An increase of 151,000 jobs in October was the biggest gain since May.

A measure of material stocks tracked on the Asia Pacific gauge rose for the third day this week after the London Metal Exchange Index of prices for six industrial metals including copper and aluminum rose 1.6 percent yesterday, also a third consecutive advance.

Oil, Metals

Rio Tinto Group, the world’s third-largest mining company, climbed 1.7 percent to A$86.42 in Sydney. BHP Billiton, which is also Australia’s biggest oil producer, gained 0.6 percent to A$44.59 as crude oil for January delivery jumped 1.4 percent in New York yesterday to $88 a barrel, the highest settlement since Oct. 8, 2008.

Cnooc Ltd., China’s biggest offshore oil producer, increased 1.1 percent to HK$17.74, and Jiangxi Copper Co., China’s No. 1 producer of the metal, increased 0.2 percent to HK$24.10.

Canon added 1.5 percent to 4,110 yen in Tokyo after European Central Bank policy makers meeting in Frankfurt yesterday delayed the bank’s exit from emergency liquidity measures as a sovereign-debt crisis threatens to engulf Portugal and Spain.

Billabong International Ltd., the Australian surfwear maker that gets about 23 percent of sales from Europe, gained 5.2 percent to A$8.90 in Sydney. Esprit Holdings Ltd., a clothier that receives most of its revenue from Europe, climbed 0.9 percent to HK$38.50 in Hong Kong.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index increased 9.6 percent this year through yesterday, compared with gains of 9.5 percent by the S&P 500 and 7 percent by the Stoxx Europe 600 Index. Shares in the Asian benchmark are valued at 14.6 times estimated earnings on average, compared with 14.3 times for the S&P 500 and 12.1 times for the Stoxx 600.

In Seoul, Samsung Group units rose after the management reshuffle, which includes the promotion of the founder’s grandson, was announced. Samsung Electronics Co., Asia’s biggest maker of chips, flat screens and mobile phones, rose 4.1 percent to 894,000 won in Seoul. Hotel Shilla Co., an affiliate company, gained 3.4 percent to 30,200 won.

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