Japan Stock Futures Little Changed on Yen; Australia Shares Rise

Japanese stock futures were little changed as the yen rebounded, damping the earnings outlook for exporters. Declines may be limited ahead of U.S. data that’s forecast to show the housing market is improving. Australian stocks rose after oil prices increased.

American depositary receipts of Honda Motor Co., Japan’s second-largest carmaker by market value, fell 0.4 percent from the closing share price in Tokyo. ADRs Komatsu Ltd., Japan’s biggest construction machinery maker, dropped 0.4 percent after China’s February home prices posted the worst performance in a year. BHP Billiton Ltd., the No. 1 Australian oil producer, gained 0.9 percent in Sydney.

Futures on Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average expiring in June closed at 10,035 in Chicago on March 16, compared with 10,060 in Osaka, Japan. They were bid in the pre-market at 10,060 in Osaka at 8:05 a.m. local time. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 0.3 percent today. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index slipped 0.1 percent in Wellington.

“Investors are likely to take profits today with a lack of news to move the yen,” said Hideyuki Ishiguro, assistant manager of investment strategy at Okasan Securities Co. in Tokyo. “But with a positive housing report expected from the U.S. and hopes for some easing from Japan’s central bank,” declined could be limited, he said.

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index were little changed today. The Dow Jones Industrial Average snapped a seven-day gain on March 16 after an increase in oil and consumer prices sparked inflation concerns as the U.S. economy improves.

U.S. Housing

Home purchases in the U.S. probably climbed in February to the highest level in almost two years, another sign of stabilization in the real-estate market, economists forecast reports this week will show.

Combined sales of new and previously owned properties rose to 4.93 million at an annual rate, the strongest since May 2010, from 4.89 million in January, according to the median forecasts in a Bloomberg News survey. Home construction also improved as warmer weather bolstered prospects for the industry, another report may show.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose 12 percent this year through March 16, compared with a 12 percent gain by the S&P 500 and an 11 percent advance by the Stoxx Europe 600 Index. Stocks in the Asian benchmark are valued at 15 times estimated earnings on average, compared with 13.5 times for the S&P 500 and 11.4 times for the Stoxx 600.

The yen strengthened to 83.31 per dollar today, compared with 83.94 reached on March 16. A stronger yen decreases the value of Japanese exporters’ profits overseas when repatriated.

Oil traded near the highest price in a week in New York as investors bet that the second-highest Saudi Arabian crude output since at least 1980 signals fuel demand is increasing.

Crude for April delivery was at $107.36 a barrel, up 30 cents, in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 9:54 a.m. Sydney time. The contract, which expires tomorrow, climbed 1.9 percent to $107.06 a barrel on March 16, the highest close since March 9.

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