Most Asian stocks rose, led by commodity-related companies, after Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said the U.S. Federal Reserve may buy more bonds to boost growth, countering falls by Japan’s exporters.
Cnooc Ltd., China’s biggest offshore oil explorer, climbed 2.4 percent in Hong Kong after oil and metal prices gained. Mitsui & Co., which counts commodities as its largest source of profit, increased 1.5 percent in Tokyo. Riversdale Mining Ltd. surged 16 percent after the company said Rio Tinto Group made a takeover proposal. Canon Inc., the world’s largest camera maker, led Japanese exporters lower, falling as much as 1.7 percent as a stronger yen versus the dollar damped its earnings outlook.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index was little changed at 133.46 at 7:34 p.m. in Tokyo. About five stocks rose for every four that fell. Stocks slid 0.6 percent last month, ending two consecutive months of gains, as concern grew that China’s anti-inflation measures, Europe’s debt crisis and rising tensions on the Korean peninsula may cool the global economic recovery.
“If the Fed were to do more quantitative easing after the implementation of the $600 billion which has already been announced, then that suggests liquidity will remain abundant, and that’s a positive contributor to the stock market,” said Khiem Do, the Hong Kong-based head of Asian multi-asset strategy at Baring Asset Management (Asia) Ltd., which oversees about $12 billion. “It seems that some of the negative macro factors in the month of November have eased. That’s why the markets have been able to bounce back up.”
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index declined 0.4 percent, reversing an earlier 1.3 percent gain. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average fell 0.1 percent, while the broader Topix index rose 0.3 percent. South Korea’s Kospi Index slid 0.2 percent and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 0.1 percent.
Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 0.3 percent today. The index climbed 0.3 percent on Dec. 3 in New York as a rally by energy and metals producers offset concern that slower-than-estimated growth in payrolls will hamper an economic recovery.
U.S. unemployment may take five years to fall to a normal level and Fed purchases of Treasury securities beyond the $600 billion announced last month are possible, Fed chairman Bernanke said in an interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes program that aired in the U.S. Sunday night.
“The message that the U.S. will continue its easing policy until the economy recovers is leading to speculation that excess liquidity will continue to support the market,” said Naoki Fujiwara, a fund manager in Tokyo who helps oversee $6 billion at Shinkin Asset Management Co.
A measure of energy and materials related companies rose the most among the MSCI Asia Pacific Index’s 10 industry groups.
Cnooc gained 2.4 percent to HK$18.16. Mitsui & Co., a Japanese trading company, gained 1.5 percent to 1,361 yen. In Sydney, Woodside Petroleum Ltd., Australia’s second-biggest oil and gas producer, climbed 1.1 percent to A$42.68.
Crude oil rose to its highest level in 26 months in New York. The January delivery contract added as much as 41 cents to $89.60 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest since Oct. 7, 2008, and was at $89.54 at 10:17 a.m. Sydney time. Copper increased for a fifth day, headed for it longest rally since July.
Riversdale Mining Ltd. jumped 16 percent to A$16.31, the biggest increase on Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index. The company, which is developing coal mines in Africa, said Rio Tinto, the world’s third-biggest miner, made an initial A$3.5 billion ($3.47 billion) takeover offer. Rio decreased 0.5 percent to A$86.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index has climbed about 11 percent this year through Dec. 3, compared with gains of 9.8 percent by the S&P 500 and 6.7 percent by the Stoxx Europe 600 Index. Shares in the Asian benchmark are valued at 14.5 times estimated earnings on average, compared with 14.4 times for the S&P 500 and 12.1 times for the Stoxx 600.
The Asia Pacific gauge rose 3.5 percent last week, ending three consecutive weeks of declines, as U.S. reports showed consumer confidence rose to the highest level in five months in November and claims for jobless benefits over the past month on average dropped to a two-year low.
Today, the MSCI Asia Pacific Consumer Discretionary Index, which includes Canon, Honda Motor Co. and Panasonic Corp. as its members, slid 0.2 percent, the most among the 10 industry groups on the broader MSCI Asia Pacific index.
Canon, which receives more than 80 percent of its revenue outside of Japan, slid 1 percent to 4,070 yen. Honda, which counts North America as its biggest market, dropped 0.6 percent to 3,135 yen. Panasonic, the world’s largest maker of plasma televisions, declined 1.2 percent to 1,191 yen.
The dollar tumbled on Dec. 3 after U.S. Labor Department figures showed payrolls increased by 39,000 last month, less than the most pessimistic projection of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. Unemployment held near a 26-year high.
The dollar traded at 82.84 yen today in Tokyo, near its lowest level in three weeks. A weaker dollar reduces the value of overseas income at Japanese companies when converted into their home currency.
“The dollar’s weakness against the yen on the backdrop of a slow U.S. jobs recovery will weigh on some of the Japanese exporters,” said Toshiyuki Kanayama, a market analyst at Tokyo-based Monex Inc.
Among other stocks that fell today, Sigma Pharmaceuticals Ltd. tumbled 17 percent to 40.5 Australian cents in Sydney after saying it expects annual wholesale revenue to drop by as much as 15 percent from February 2011.