Most Asian stocks advanced as expanding manufacturing activity in India and China tempered concerns that economies across the region and the U.S. may be slowing down.
Tata Power Co., India’s biggest electricity generator outside of state control, jumped 6 percent in Mumbai. Shipping stocks rallied on speculation rising cargo rates will shore up earnings. Australian banks fell after a gauge of home prices retreated by a record in 2011. Sumitomo Heavy Industries Ltd. sank 9.6 percent in Tokyo after the machinery maker cut its full-year profit forecast by 28 percent.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index added 0.1 percent to 122.98 at 122.98 as of 7:14 p.m. in Tokyo, with about five shares rising for every four that fell. In January, the measure posted its biggest monthly advance since September 2010 amid bets China will ease lending curbs, the U.S. economy is improving and Europe is containing its debts crisis.
“Economic data from China and India are quite positive,” said Yoji Takeda, who manages about $1.1 billion at RBC Investment Management (Asia) Ltd. “The most significant issue for the market is Europe. Assuming the situation settles down, probably the rally in Asian stocks can be sustained.”
Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average added 0.1 percent, while South Korea’s Kospi Index gained 0.2 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index slipped 0.9 percent. India’s BSE Sensitive Index lost 0.6 percent as the nation’s manufacturing growth accelerated, reducing the scope for the central bank to cut interest rates.
India electricity and steel producers advanced. Tata Power climbed 6 percent to 110.15 rupees in Mumbai. Jindal Steel & Power Ltd., the nation’s biggest producer of the metal by market value, jumped 6.3 percent to 576.1 rupees.
Shipping stocks rallied as data from the Shanghai Shipping Exchange showed spot prices for hauling containers to Europe and the U.S. climbed in January from a month ago, bolstering hopes earnings will improve in the first quarter.
“Cargo rates seem to be faring better than what was earlier expected,” said Jee Heon Seok, an analyst at NH Investment & Securities Co. in Seoul. “This appears to be raising expectations that first-quarter earnings will probably be better than the previous quarter.”
Hanjin Shipping Co., South Korea’s No. 1 shipping line, climbed 9.3 percent to 14,750 won in Seoul. China Shipping Container Lines Ltd., the nation’s second-largest cargo-box carrier, jumped 15 percent to HK$1.98 in Hong Kong. China Cosco Holdings Co., the country’s sector leader, advanced 6.1 percent to HK$4.68.
China’s Shanghai Composite Index sank 1.1 percent, erasing gains of as much as 0.6 percent, on speculation the stronger-than-expected Chinese manufacturing report today reduces the need for further monetary-policy easing. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index slipped 0.3 percent.
“Some investors may be disappointed because they were hoping for faster easing of monetary policy.” said Ng Soo Nam, Singapore-based chief investment officer at Nikko Asset Management Asia Ltd., which oversees about $165 billion. “Signs that the Chinese economy is heading towards a soft landing are a very good scenario.”
Chinese lenders and developers declined. Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd., the world’s biggest lender by market value, slipped 1.3 percent to HK$5.36 in Hong Kong. Agricultural Bank of China Ltd., the nation’s third-biggest bank by market value, lost 0.8 percent to HK$3.80. Sino-Ocean Land Holdings Ltd., a China-based developer, sank 4.3 percent to HK$3.82.
Australian banks declined as the nation’s house prices plunged by the most on record in 2011 as global economic uncertainty and concerns about its impact at home kept a lid on demand.
Westpac Banking Corp., Australia’s second-largest lender, slipped 1.4 percent to A$20.85. National Australia Bank Ltd., the third-biggest, lost 0.8 percent to A$23.66.
Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index climbed 0.6 percent after falling as much as 0.3 percent today. The gauge retreated 0.1 percent in New York yesterday after a report showed that American consumer confidence unexpectedly dropped in January.
Exporters to the U.S. declined as falling home prices and cooling business activity added to signs the recovery in the world’s biggest economy may stall after expanding in the fourth quarter at the fastest pace since 2010.
Li & Fung Ltd., which counts the U.S. as its biggest market, slipped 1.8 percent to HK$16.66. Sony Corp., Japan’s largest exporter of consumer electronics, slid 1.9 percent to 1,364 yen in Tokyo after naming Kazuo Hirai as chief executive officer, replacing Howard Stringer after falling behind Apple. Nintendo Co., the maker of Wii game consoles, fell 1.1 percent to 10,230 yen in Osaka.
Sumitomo Heavy slumped 9.8 percent to 440 yen, the biggest decline on the MSCI Asia Pacific Index. The company cut its net-income forecast by 28 percent to 20 billion yen ($262 million) for the year ending March 31, citing the stronger yen and an economic slowdown in China.