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Asia Stocks Gain for Fifth Week, Longest Winning Streak in Year

Asian stocks rose for a fifth week, the regional benchmark’s longest winning streak in a year, as U.S. economic reports showed the world’s biggest economy is recovering and falling European borrowing costs signaled the debt crisis may be easing.

Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s biggest carmaker by market value, climbed 3.5 percent in Tokyo. Samsung Electronics Co., the South Korean consumer electronics maker that gets 20 percent of sales from Europe, advanced 5.6 percent in Seoul. China Construction Bank Corp., the nation’s No. 2 lender, jumped 5.9 percent amid signs policy makers may ease lending curbs to spur growth in the world’s second-largest economy.

“Everyone is breathing a collective sigh of relief as European bond yields come down,” said Angus Gluskie, who oversees about $300 million as managing director at White Funds Management in Sydney. “The U.S. economic data is another bright spot. That’s adding to the market momentum.”

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose 3.3 percent this week, its longest winning streak since the five weeks ended Jan. 14 last year, as rising confidence among homebuilders and declining claims for jobless benefits added to signs of strength in the U.S. economy.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average rose 3.1 percent as Japanese lenders rallied after the central bank delayed the sale of shares purchased from the financial institutions. South Korea’s Kospi Index rose 4 percent.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 climbed 1 percent. China’s Shanghai Composite Index gained 3.3 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index jumped 4.7 percent. Markets in China and Taiwan will be shut next week for the Lunar New Year holidays, while those in Hong Kong will be closed from Jan. 23 to Jan. 25.

Exporters Gain

Exporters advanced. Toyota increased 3.5 percent to 2,729 yen in Tokyo. Honda Motor Co., which counts North America as its top market, climbed 4.1 percent to 2,658 yen. Li & Fung Ltd., a supplier of toys and clothes to retailers including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., advanced 7.8 percent to HK$17.20 in Hong Kong.

Companies that sell their products in Europe advanced after France and Spain auctioned about 14.6 billion euros ($20 billion) of notes at lower yields.

Samsung Electronics increased 5.6 percent to 1.105 million won in Seoul. Canon Inc., the camera maker that gets one-third of its sales from Europe, rose 2.2 percent to 3,430 yen. Cosco Pacific Ltd., which operates a port facility in Greece, gained 4 percent to HK$10.90.

China Easing

Chinese lenders and developers rallied amid signs policy makers may be easing monetary policy. The central bank will allow the nation’s five biggest banks to increase lending, people with knowledge of the matter said on Jan. 19. Separately, the China Banking Regulatory Commission may ease lending restrictions on small businesses, four people with knowledge of the matter said.

China Construction Bank advanced 5.9 percent to HK$6.08. Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd., the world’s biggest lender by market value, increased 4.3 percent to HK$5.37. China Overseas Land & Investment Ltd., the largest mainland developer listed in Hong Kong, jumped 10 percent to HK$15.16. Soho China Ltd., which builds homes in Beijing and Shanghai, gained 4.8 percent to HK$5.49.

“The market is continuing its recovery amid some positive economic readings, and there are hopes that the Chinese government may take more measures,” said Chu Moon Sung, a Seoul-based fund manager at Shinhan BNP Paribas Asset Management Co., which oversees $28 billion. “Some investors who had taken a defensive and conservative stance appear to be slowly letting their guard down.”

Japanese Banks

Japanese lenders rallied after the Bank of Japan said yesterday it will postpone the sale of shares it had previously purchased from financial institutions by two years to March 2014.

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc., Japan’s biggest publicly traded lender, jumped 4.8 percent to 350 yen. Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc., the second-largest, gained 5.8 percent to 2,373 yen. Mizuho Financial Group Inc. advanced 5.5 percent 115 yen.

Hengdeli Holdings Ltd., the retail partner of Swatch Group AG in China, soared 26 percent to HK$3.04 in Hong Kong, the second-biggest gain in the MSCI Asia Pacific Index this week, amid speculation the company will benefit from acquiring a stake in Ming Fung Jewellery Group Ltd. The deal will close at the end of this month, Hengdeli investor relations officer Shi Gao said Jan. 18.

Completing the acquisition of the stake “will allow Hengdeli to improve its luxurious watches and jewelry product offerings,” said Larry Cho, head of mid-cap research at Royal Bank of Scotland. “I see this news as very positive for Hengdeli.”

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