Asian stocks rose, with the regional benchmark index set to extend its longest weekly winning streak on record, after U.S. jobless claims fell and European leaders agreed to speed up providing a permanent bailout fund for the region’s debt crisis.
James Hardie Industries NV, which makes most of its revenue selling home siding in the U.S., increased 1.4 percent in Sydney. HSBC Holdings Plc, Europe’s biggest bank by market value, gained 1.6 percent in Hong Kong. Hyundai Motor Co., South Korea’s No. 1 automaker, climbed 1.9 percent in Seoul after U.S. sales advanced last month. Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd., Japan’s third-largest shipping line by sales, jumped 7.6 percent in Tokyo as container freight rates on Asia to Europe routes rose.
“The U.S. economy overall is headed for a mild recovery, and that’s supporting stocks,” said Kiyoshi Ishigane, a Tokyo-based strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Asset Management Co., which oversees about $84 billion. “The Greek debt crisis isn’t fully resolved yet, but it has calmed down for now.”
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose 0.3 percent to 128.18 as of 7:51 p.m. in Tokyo. The gauge is headed for a 0.2 percent gain for the week and is set to extend its 10-week winning streak, the longest such run of increases since its inception in 1988. Shares have advanced amid optimism about the strength of U.S. economic recovery and that China will relax its monetary policy.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average advanced 0.7 percent. Trading volumes in Tokyo have been recovering as the country’s equity markets have rallied. The 25-day moving average of the value of stocks traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s first section rose above 2 trillion yen ($24.5 billion) on Feb. 15 for the first time since the aftermath of last year’s record earthquake.
Hong Kong, Shanghai
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index increased 0.4 percent and South Korea’s Kospi Index gained 0.2 percent.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index rose 0.8 percent and China’s Shanghai Composite Index gained 1.4 percent amid speculation the government may introduce policies to support economic growth at a national congress next week.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index climbed 12 percent this year through yesterday, compared with a 9.3 percent advance by the S&P 500 and a 9.2 percent increase by the Stoxx Europe 600 Index. Stocks in the Asian benchmark are valued at 14.9 times estimated earnings on average, compared with 13.2 times for the S&P 500 and 11.1 times for the Stoxx 600.
Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index slid 0.2 percent today after the gauge rose 0.6 percent to the highest level since June 2008 in New York yesterday after a government report showed the number of Americans filing first-time claims for jobless benefits fell to a level matching a four-year low, more evidence the labor market is healing.
James Hardie rose 1.4 percent to A$7.43 in Sydney. Yue Yuen Industrial Holdings Ltd., which makes shoes for Nike Inc., gained 2.9 percent to HK$27 in Hong Kong.
In Europe, governments may pay the first two annual installments into a 500 billion-euro ($666 billion) fund this year and complete the capitalization in 2015, a year ahead of schedule. A decision will come later today.
HSBC rose 1.6 percent to HK$70.30 in Hong Kong, while Esprit Holdings Ltd., a Hong Kong-listed clothier that gets about 80 percent of revenue from Europe, increased 6.4 percent to HK$19.26.
Hyundai Motor rose 1.9 percent to 220,000 won in Seoul, while Kia Motors Corp., a South Korean auto exporter, advanced 1.4 percent to 71,700 won. The companies had a combined 26 percent jump in U.S. sales in February from a year earlier.
Kawasaki Kisen rose 7.6 percent to 184 yen in Tokyo, while Nippon Yusen K.K., Japan’s biggest shipper by sales, rose 2.9 percent to 246 yen. Rates for cargo between Asia and Europe more than doubled this week, according to estimates by Drewry Shipping Consultants Ltd.
“There’s been a modest improvement in the U.S. economy,” Stephen Wood, New York-based chief market strategist for Russell Investments, said on Bloomberg Television. “To the extent that Europe can keep itself off the headlines, investors can concentrate on fundamentals.”
Yuexiu Property Co., a Hong Kong-based developer that gets almost all its revenue from China, jumped 13 percent to HK$1.70 in Hong Kong after saying its profit for year ended Dec. 31 surged 459 percent to 5.14 billion yuan ($816 million) from a year earlier.