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Asian Stocks Rise for Fifth Day on Signs Recovery Strengthening

Asian Stocks Decline for First Time in Five Days on Currency
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index fell 0.1 percent to 133.43 at 9:39 a.m. in Tokyo, with almost three shares declining for each that advanced. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

Asian stocks rose for a fifth day, led by commodity companies on speculation that a global economic recovery is stabilizing after Australia kept its main interest rate unchanged and the U.S. cut its stake in Citigroup Inc.

BHP Billiton Ltd. and Rio Tinto Group, the world’s No. 1 and No. 3 mining companies, climbed more than 1 percent in Sydney as oil and metal prices gained in New York yesterday. PetroChina Co., the country’s biggest oil company, advanced 1.8 percent in Hong Kong. Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the nation’s largest lender by market value, rose 1 percent. Honda Motor Co. led a drop by Japanese exporters on concern the dollar at a three-week low against the yen will cut overseas earnings.

“Markets should like one of the largest bailed-out U.S. banks becoming independent again,” said Gavin Parry, managing director of Hong Kong-based Parry International Trading Ltd. “This could be seen as a closing chapter to the 2008 crisis. It also fits well with the overall U.S. recovery story.”

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index gained 0.3 percent to 134.07 at 7:29 p.m. in Tokyo, reversing a 0.2 percent drop and heading for its longest winning streak in a month. About seven shares advanced for every six that declined.

The gauge slid 0.6 percent last month after two straight monthly gains as concern grew that China’s anti-inflation measures, Europe’s debt crisis and tensions on the Korean peninsula may cool the global economic recovery.

Australia Rates

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 0.8 percent in Sydney as the central bank kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged and said inflation will likely be contained over coming quarters. South Korea’s Kospi Index climbed 0.5 percent in Seoul, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index added 0.8 percent. China’s Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.7 percent. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average slid 0.3 percent.

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index advanced 0.9 percent. The index fell 0.1 percent yesterday, snapping a three-day rally, after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said the world’s largest economy may require more stimulus.

The U.S. Treasury Department raised about $10.5 billion selling its remaining stock in Citigroup in a public offering. The sale helps the company, recipient of a $45 billion taxpayer-funded bailout in 2008, exit the rescue, which was provided to keep the New York-based bank from collapsing. Separately, U.S. President Barack Obama said he’ll agree to a two-year extension on all tax cuts by his predecessor in a compromise deal he called “an essential step on the road to recovery.”

Oil, Metals Gain

Material and energy companies led gains among the 10 industry groups in the MSCI Asia Pacific Index, and BHP Billiton was its biggest single boost. BHP Billiton, Australia’s No. 1 oil producer, rose 1.2 percent to A$45.08 in Sydney. Rio Tinto climbed 1.6 percent to A$87.34. Woodside Petroleum Ltd., Australia’s second-largest oil and gas producer, gained 0.5 percent to A$42.90. In Hong Kong, PetroChina advanced 1.8 percent to HK$10.10.

Crude oil for January delivery rose 0.2 percent to settle at $89.38 a barrel in New York yesterday on speculation the U.S. may extend stimulus measures, bolstering fuel demand in the world’s largest oil-consuming country. Copper futures climbed 0.2 percent in New York, and rose as much as 0.9 percent today.

“Commodity markets are firm, which may boost resource-related companies,” said Fumiyuki Nakanishi, a strategist at Tokyo-based SMBC Friend Securities Co. “Concerns about the strong yen may weaken exporters.”

Commonwealth Bank of Australia rose 1 percent to A$49.76 in Sydney, while rival National Australia Bank Ltd. climbed 1 percent to A$23.96.

Economic Outlook

The Reserve Bank of Australia left the overnight cash rate target at 4.75 percent today, as forecast by all 26 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. After seven rate increases since October 2009, Governor Glenn Stevens said monetary policy is “appropriate for the economic outlook.”

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index climbed 11 percent this year through yesterday, compared with gains of 9.7 percent by the S&P 500 and 6.9 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.

Honda, Japan’s second-largest carmaker by sales, dropped 1.9 percent to 3,075 yen in Tokyo and was the heaviest single drag on the MSCI Asia Pacific Index. Toyota Motor Co., the world’s biggest carmaker, sank 0.6 percent to 3,255 yen. Canon Inc., which is the world’s largest camera maker and receives more than 80 percent of its revenue outside of Japan, slid 0.4 percent to 4,055 yen.

Advantest Climbs

The dollar depreciated to as low as 82.34 yen today in Tokyo, its lowest level since Nov. 12. A weaker dollar reduces the value of U.S. income at Japanese companies when converted into their home currency.

“People in the market are worried the stronger yen will hurt exporters’ earnings,” said Naoteru Teraoka, general manager at Tokyo-based Chuo Mitsui Asset Management Co., which oversees about $26 billion.

Advantest Corp., the world’s biggest maker of machines used to test memory chips, jumped 3.7 percent to 1,866 yen in Tokyo and was the largest support for the Nikkei 225. Singapore-based Verigy Ltd. said the Japanese company made a takeover offer for Verigy.

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