Asian Stocks Rise on Japan Growth, Fed Stimulus Optimism

Asia Stocks Swing Between Gains, Losses on Japan Growth, Greece
Pedestrians look at an electronic stock board outside a securities firm in Tokyo, Japan. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

Asian stocks rose, with the regional gauge poised to end a six-day losing streak, as faster-than-estimated economic growth in Japan and optimism the Federal Reserve will do more to stimulate the U.S. economy outweighed concern Greece’s debt crisis is worsening.

Li & Fung Ltd., a supplier for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., rose 1.8 percent. Korea Gas Corp. jumped 6.4 percent in Seoul after a gas discovery in Mozambique. Toshiba Corp., the maker of Regza brand televisions, gained 5.6 percent in Tokyo after saying it will stop television production in Japan. Toll Holdings Ltd., an Australian trucking company, slid 6.8 percent, extending yesterday’s losses after forecasting lower full-year profit.

“We may see a huge buy-back if we see some end to Europe’s political turmoil and people realize that stocks in Asia are cheap given their strong economies,” said Koji Toda, chief fund manager at Resona Bank Ltd. in Tokyo, which oversees about $68 billion. “The Fed is giving a signal to the market that there’s no need for panic, by assuring it will do something before things get really bad.”

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose 0.6 percent to 114.97 as of 7:59 p.m. in Tokyo, after falling as much as 0.2 percent. More than twice as many stocks rose as fell on the measure, which yesterday closed more than 10 percent below its Feb. 29 high, a retreat some traders call a correction.

Concern about Europe’s crisis drove the MSCI Asia Pacific Index down for the past six days, dragging the gauge to its lowest level since Jan. 2, as markets in South Korea and Hong Kong entered a so-called correction from their recent highs. The European Central Bank said it will temporarily stop lending to some Greek banks to limit its risk as President Mario Draghi signaled the ECB won’t compromise on key principles to keep Greece in the euro area.

Japanese Growth

Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average rose 0.9 percent after the Cabinet Office reported the nation’s economy grew an annualized 4.1 percent in the first quarter, exceeding the 3.5 percent estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index declined 0.2 percent and South Korea’s Kospi Index rose 0.3 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 0.3 percent, reversing an advance of as much as 1 percent.

Singapore’s Straits Times Index slid 0.3 percent. A government report showed gross domestic product rose an annualized 10 percent in the three months through March 31 from the previous quarter.

Fed Minutes

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index is about 1 percent away from erasing this year’s gains. That compares with a 5.3 percent increase by the S&P 500 and a drop of less than 1 percent for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index. Stocks in the Asian benchmark are valued at 11.7 times estimated earnings on average, compared with a multiple of 12.6 for the S&P 500 and 10.1 times for the Stoxx 600.

The uncertainty in Greece “seems likely to confine equity markets to several weeks of nervous limbo,” said Michael Kurtz, head of global equity strategy at Nomura Holdings Inc., Japan’s largest brokerage. “We will look back on this juncture as an extraordinary buying opportunity even if events ultimately conspire to eject Greece from the euro.”

In the U.S., several Federal Reserve policy makers said a loss of momentum in growth or increased risks to their economic outlook could warrant additional action to keep the recovery going, minutes of their last meeting showed.

Li & Fung gained 1.8 percent to HK$14.44 in Hong Kong, while Techtronic Industries Co., maker of Ryobi power tools and Hoover vacuum cleaners, advanced 2.3 percent to HK$8.82.

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose 0.1 percent today. The index slipped 0.4 percent in New York yesterday as concern that Greece’s debt crisis is worsening offset better-than-estimated reports on U.S. housing starts and industrial production.

Gas Discovery

Korea Gas rose 6.4 percent to 45,100 won in Seoul after its Italian partner Eni SpA reported it discovered more gas than previously estimated in a field off Mozambique, citing the company.

Toshiba rose 5.6 percent to 322 yen in Tokyo. The company halted output at its sole domestic TV factory in Saitama, north of Tokyo, sometime in the year ended March 31, a spokesman, Atsushi Ido, said by phone today.

“It’s the right strategy,” said Mitsushige Akino, who oversees about $600 million at Ichiyoshi Investment Management Co. in Tokyo. “The company should just abandon overseas TV production altogether and have them built by Chinese or Taiwanese companies.”

Link REIT, a shopping-center operator in Hong Kong, dropped 4.4 percent to HK$29.35 after a report an investor is selling as much as HK$1.98 billion ($255 million) of its shares.

Toll Holdings slid 6.8 percent to A$4.41 in Sydney. It tumbled 15 percent yesterday after saying earnings before interest and tax will lower in the 12 months ending June from the previous year. The stock’s rating was cut to hold from buy at Deutsche Bank AG.

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