Japan Stock Futures Gain as Europe Officials Meet on Debt Plan

Japanese stock futures and Australian equities gained as European Union finance ministers took steps to tame the region’s debt crisis, boosting the outlook for Asia exporters.

American depositary receipts of Canon Inc., a Japanese camera maker that depends on Europe for almost a third of its sales, rose 0.7 percent from the closing price in Tokyo. Elpida Memory Inc. may be active trading after the Yomiuri newspaper reported the chipmaker is in talks with Micron Technology Inc. and Nanya Technology Corp. about a three-way merger. BHP Billiton Ltd., Australia’s No. 1 oil producer and the world’s biggest mining company, gained 0.5 percent in Sydney after prices for oil and metals advanced.

Futures on Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average expiring in March closed at 8,795 in Chicago yesterday, compared with 8,770 in Osaka, Japan. They were bid in the pre-market at 8,780 in Osaka at 8:05 a.m. local time. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index advanced 0.3 percent today. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index rose 0.1 percent in Wellington. Stock markets in China, Hong Kong and South Korea and Singapore are shut for the Lunar New Year holiday.

“The worst scenario that Greece will break away from the euro region is gone, easing excessive worries about the European debt issues,” said Fumiyuki Nakanishi, a strategist at Tokyo-based SMBC Friend Securities Co. “Globally, a feeling of confidence to buy stocks is emerging.”

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index slid 0.1 percent today. The index added 0.1 percent in New York yesterday, rising for a fifth day, as energy and bank shares advanced and investors weighed developments in Europe’s efforts to tackle its debt crisis.

Europe Talks

Euro-area finance ministers agreed yesterday on the region’s permanent rescue fund, the European Stability Mechanism, based on a proposal by Finland. Germany and France said talks between Greece and bondholders were making progress, while a government official in Berlin said Germany may be open to combining Europe’s two bailout mechanisms and boosting their funding limit.

The euro gained versus 13 of its 16 major counterparts tracked by Bloomberg as French Finance Minister Francois Baroin said negotiations between debt-laden Greece and its private creditors are making “tangible progress.”

The 17-nation currency appreciated to as high as 100.49 yen today in Tokyo, compared with 99.34 at the close of stock trading yesterday, boosting the value of some overseas income at Japanese companies when repatriated.

Oil Rises

Oil rose for the first time in four days after the European Union agreed to ban crude imports from Iran, raising concern that retaliation from the Islamic republic may disrupt the oil supply in the Middle East.

Crude oil for March delivery climbed 1.3 percent to settle at $99.58 a barrel in New York yesterday. The London Metal Exchange Index of prices for six metals including copper and aluminum advanced 1.4 percent to the highest level since Sept. 21.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index gained 6.3 percent this year through yesterday, compared with gains of 4.6 percent by the S&P 500 and 5.1 percent by the Stoxx Europe 600 Index. Stocks in the Asian benchmark are valued at 1.3 times book value. That compares with 2.1 times for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index in the U.S. and 1.4 times for the Europe Stoxx 600 Index in Europe.

The Bloomberg China-US 55 Index of the most-traded Chinese stocks in the U.S. added 0.5 percent to 101.81 yesterday in New York.

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